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OUR HOUSEBOAT 
ON THE NILE 

BY 

LEE BACON 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM WATER COLORS 

By HENRY BACON 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

(i2Cte JlitJer^ibe prej^jS, €amliriti0e 

1901 



THE LIBRARY OF 
CONGRESS, 

Two COPlfed RECEiVED 

SEP. 13 1901 

Copyright entry 

CLASS ^ XX& No. 

COPY B. 



COPTBIQHT, 1901, BY LEE BACON 
ALL BIGHTS BESEBVED 



Published September, 1901 



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CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

THAT CONTRACT 



Engaging the dahabdah. To set sail in December. 
A long, tedious affair. Signed at last. Arrange- 
ments for post. Speculation in turkeys .... 1 

CHAPTER II 

MAKING HISTORY 

,x Heroes from the Soudan. Khalifa's gibbah. Booty 

from Fashoda. Lowest Nile for hundreds of years. 9 

CHAPTER III 

SAILING SOUTH 

A cook engaged. Our " man Friday." Ship's stores. 
An arrest and a pardon. A mushroom town. A 
midday salute. The crew's cook. Our first saqquia. 
Gate of Kalabshy. Henna berries. The flag and 
the pennant. Saloon furnishings 13 

CHAPTER IV 

WHAT WE LEARN 

Sowereen (travelers). Armed natives. Monkey on a 
stick. Our crew. Nubian post-office. Our menu. 32 



iv CONTENTS 

CHAPTER V 

A RUNAWAY GHIASHA 

Murder aboard. Silence. We dress ship. A spoiled 
sketch. The heavens above Nubia. The No-name. 38 

CHAPTER VI 

TRACKING 

Nohandis. The sleepers of Dendur. Oral telegraphy. 
^^' An American doctor. The irma. A lamb in dis- 
tress. The two kitchens. Nose-rings and bracelets. 
The emblem of Egypt. Mercury falls. The scorched 
mountain. Sitt in market. Drifts of golden sand. 
Religious fervor. On a sand-bank. Travel in com- 
pany o 47 

CHAPTER VII 

MUTINY AT KOROSKO 

The down post-boat. Big sheik prays. Korosko on 
schedule time. Korosko bazaars. Reis and crew 
mutiny. How AUi suppressed it 60 

CHAPTER VIII 

GOLDEN SANDS 

Worse than the galleys. " Scenery." Chicken pie. 
Nubian egg trader. The old crone's blessing. 
"Where Afric's sunny fountains." A record of 
the Highlanders. Kangaroo mouse. Dinner by the 
light of a Rochester lamp 74 

CHAPTER IX 

A CARAVAN 

The crew, worn out with work, sleep before dark. 
Naming the boat. The crew tell funny stories. 
Fertile stretch beyond Derr. No wind. Mercury 
rises from 42° to 90°. Crocodiles? Caravan on the .> 



CONTENTS V 

road from the Soudan. Roman ruin. Reis Moham- 
med gives an object lesson. River low ; air dry. 
Crew go a-fishing. Robber castle of Kasrn Ibrim. 
Sailing by the light of the moon 82 

CHAPTER X 

OUR LAST LOAF OF BREAD 

Quiet of Sunday morning. Fine breeze. Salt-boat. 
Cook falls down the hatchway. Toshkeh. Con- 
struction of a dahabdah. Carriage and horses en- 
gulfed near Luxor. Boundary line between Nubia 
and the Soudan. The cliffs of Abou Simbel . . 94 

CHAPTER XI 

ABOU SIMBEL 

Mail-boat with letters and bread. Rising sun on Abou 
Simbel. Vivid coloring. Nubia, golden. First im- 
pressions of the great temple of Abou Simbel. We 
moor at the foot of the temple. Tonsorial artist. 
Excursionists from Khartoum. A frustrated temple 
guardian. Buildings of Khartoum 103 

CHAPTER XII 

LOST IN THE DESERT 

The eighth wonder of the world. We climb a sand- 
drift. The gold of the Libyan desert. No land- 
marks. Footsteps obliterated. The Howadji's col- 
lie. Our black pack, Sitt's constitutional. Colors 
of the Celestial City of Revelation 116 

CHAPTER XIII 

THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 

Drawing from the antique. Looking down the centu- 
ries. Why not mutilated. Bulwarks of sand. All on 



vi CONTENTS 



their knees. First temple built in honor of woman. 
The undiscovered temple. The wind fiends. A 
thief in the night. Locating a crocodile .... 126 

CHAPTER XIV 

EAELY IMPRESSIONISTS 

A Christian church. St. George and the dragon. In- 
habitants of the temples. The white owl. A ruined 
y^ fortress. Further south 141 

CHAPTER XV 

THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 

A hunt for a tomb. Dora. palm. Where Howadji 
lights his pipe. Up before the sun. New World 
ways in Old World surroundings » . 149 

CHAPTER XVI 

THE PHANTOM BOAT 

Late hours. Eating the moon. Itinerant post-office. 
Trespassing. A mouse in the stores. Sennacherib's 
bow-strings. The faithless purser. A record trip. 
"Sitt-Reis." A costly weapon. Modern " antiquas." 
Out all night. Our wonderful kuz. Clouds over 
the moon. Mercury drops thirty degrees .... 160 

CHAPTER XVII 

DISMANTLED 

A taut, trim scow. Felucca is sent to Haifa for stores. 
Herding the chickens. Ready. The felucca re- 
turns. Men at the sweeps, the Reis at the tiller, and 
our backs to Abou Simbel. Turning northward. 
Christmas eve moor under wide-spreading palms. 
The note of a bird. Men working the fields . . . 174 



CONTENTS vii 

CHAPTER XVIII 

CHRISTMAS DAY 

Contents of a stocking. A gale and a walk on shore. 
Egg-nog and Christmas pudding? A discovery. 
Can Herodotus help a modern sailing-craft ? Usual 
tussle with Reis Mohammed. Language not " action- 
able." A star in the East 181 

CHAPTER XIX 

A ROBBER STRONGHOLD 

Kasrn Ibrim. A climb. Into town through a breach 
in the wall. Held by four hundred. On to Gebel 
Addeh ! Kasrn Ibrim — Petronius — the Mame- 
lukes. Another spoiled sketch. Howadji and his 
Ka. Ruins. What can be seen. Vandals from the 
Terrapin 187 

CHAPTER XX 

THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 

No wind, no sail. One of Beauty's daughters. Youth 
soon gone. Blown ashore. Unlucky stretch from 
Derr to Korosko. St. Augustine Indians. Scant 
clothing. Aground. The road to the gold mines 197 

CHAPTER XXI 

THE LIONS OF SABUAH 

Azib, our widower. The Reis's relatives. " This is 
how the row began." The Southern Cross. A jewel- 
studded temple. Nile pebbles. St. Peter's key 213 

CHAPTER XXII 

THE HOWADJi'S BAD HABIT 

Coin to a blind man. In shallow water. Marvelous 



viii CONTENTS 

color-changes in Shellal. At the oars since dawn. 
Fights alongshore. A defrauded woman. Hyenas ; 
little brothers and sisters ....,,... 220 

CHAPTER XXIII 
"warriors with breastplates of fire" 
The clerk of the weather is caught napping. Sketch- 
ing and doctoring in Nubia. " Office practice." Is 
" donkey " the equivalent of " cook " ? Mustard 
plasters and linen running short. Our " bosta " cal- 
culations puzzle Reis Mohammed. A yellow pylon 
with violet wings. A snowstorm near the Tropic 
of Cancer. The clouds in battle array. A phenom- 
enal sunset. A new gown on a " cherubim " ? Build- 
ing a Nubian gown. Fulfillment of the Levantine 
trader's prediction. Are things quite the same after 
two thousand years ?........... 228 

CHAPTER XXIV 

THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 

Letters from far and near, from east, from west. Sitt 
hears a story and Howadji tells a tale. More than 
one beautiful woman. A swift runner. Howadji 
and AUi nonplused. A moonlight camel ride and a 
superstitious bride . 235 

CHAPTER XXV 

SAILING INTO THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 

Stuck on a mud-bank through dividing spoil. Stuck 
fore and aft. Howadji shows continued interest in 
a one-eyed queen. Sitt orders the sail up. Old 
signal towers. A temple before sunrise of a new 
year. "Where are you going, my pretty maid?" 
Bargaining as understood by Awassa. Lavish How- 



CONTENTS ix 

adji. Stripping a ferry-boat. The real price. We ^ 
dress ship with Turko-American-Egyptian-Moham- 
medan emblems. Saluting a government boat. A 
motley crowd alongshore. Kalabshy in all the 
beauty of neglect 244 

CHAPTER XXVI 

THE PETIT TRIANON OF NUBIA 

Trials of Ramadd,n. Alii is first called a Christian in 
Nubia. The wind is still our worst enemy. Drift- 
ing through the gate of Kalabshy. Headlong pace 
of the Terrapin. Miniature temple of Kertassi 
looked up to from river and down upon from hilltop. 
Kertassi quarries of white stone. The length of a 
goose's memory 257 

CHAPTER XXVII 

THE watchman's VALLEY 

Boreas still overwhelming in his attention. A ruin not 
mentioned by the all-wise, all-knowing Budge and 
Bffideker. An old coin and a green tomato. The 
site of future excavations. The new moon now big 
enough to see. Long-sighted Awassi and the Zin- 
garee. High wind, no color, despairing travelers. 
Eggs and potatoes give out. A gale and an old 
Roman dike for shelter. Curious scraping overhead. 
Before dawn with the Southern Cross for company. 
Vigorous rowing and vigorous chanting. The home 
stretch 263 

CHAPTER XXVIII 

THE EMERALD HUNTERS 

Philse — " the end of the journey." The petition of 
priests of olden time. A sacred shrine mid worldly 



X CONTENTS 

surroundings. The mushroom of Nubia. The sheik 
of the cataract. All hands on a holiday. Baedeker 
and Strabo. Anything but cockle-shells. An inscrip- 
tion of to-day and one of a hundred years ago. The 
Mamelukes have our sympathy. A long quotation 
and a " big game " man. The value of carefully 
kept records. The most celebrated mines of olden 
times 271 

CHAPTER XXIX 

THE END OF THE JOURNEY 

In the shadow of the sacred island. That wily young 
Egyptian. A railroad time-table. A return to 
modern times. A six o'clock morning train. Alli's 
uneasiness. Upsetting the furniture. " Most six 
'cl'k, think it late, never you mind." Dismantling 
the saloon. Packing, leave-taking, and backsheesh. 
A glance back through the smoke of the railroad 
engine 284 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Temple of Abof Simbel (Page 126) . Frontispiece. 

A Wonderful Builder of Griddle Cakes . .22 

Keis Mohammed 35 

The Runaway Ghiashas 44 

Tracking 52 

Alli washing Breakfast Dishes .... 68 

The Terrapin at Abou Simbel . . . . 108 

Nubian Woman 170 

Coptic Rosasse from Kasrn Ibrim .... 194 

Rowing Downstream 202 

Lions of Sabuah 216 

The Secret of the Sphinx ...... 238 

The Terrapin at PniLiE ...... 272 



OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE 
NILE 



CHAPTER I 

THAT CONTRACT 

Does it not seem a simple matter to en- 
gage a dahabeah ? Any one would think 
that a letter or two, a telegram perhaps, a 
week's notice, and the payment of $100 
down would be all that was requisite to se- 
cure a houseboat ; but he who tries to hurry 
in the East, to change Eastern ways and cus- 
toms, little realizes that usage which goes 
back many centuries is much harder and 
higher to get over or break down than any 
stone wall. 

We wished to set sail in December, and 
the only chance of succeeding was to begin 
treating the previous spring. 

By July, with the assistance of an inter- 
preter, we had hired a houseboat at Shellal 



2 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

in which to make the trip to Wady-Halfa — 
between the first and second cataracts. In 
September a certain portion of the money 
on the boat was paid down, for this agent 
was a Luxor guide, an honest man, in whose 
charge is the Luxor cemetery, and ours was 
to be a self-conducted excursion ; and any 
one honest enough to take care of a ceme- 
tery would be honest enough, we thought, to 
make the initial bargaining for a boat. This 
was not altogether a mistake ; our man was 
not entirely false and faithless, only as inex- 
perienced as we — and that was saying a 
great deal. 

By the latter part of November we had 
reached Assouan, the scene of many a com- 
ing struggle in the way of getting that con- 
tract signed, but day after day slipped by 
before we could bring the owners of the 
boat, which had originally belonged to a na- 
tive governor, to terms. 

We should have had no trouble with the 
senior partner, a venerable, highly respecta- 
ble, kind-faced old man, dignified in speech 
and gesture, and clad in the softest colors ; 
but how different with the young, sleek, 
loud-voiced Egyptian, his junior partner, 



THAT CONTRACT 3 

who wore a gay galabeyah, and had lost a 
front tooth. With the first of them it 
would have been possible to get a fair re- 
turn for our money, but with the second, 
who wished to get all he had a right to and 
much more, it was difficult to settle the con- 
ditions of time, details of crew, and so forth, 
for he was tricky. 

The American way of saving time and 
talk is fatal in an Eastern business transac- 
tion — and Orientals have learned that we 
will pay much to save both. 

They were to be paid by the month in 
advance, and one of the points to which the 
junior partner held was that if we ran but a 
few minutes into an extra month, the whole 
of that month must be paid for. When, 
however, he found that we had discovered 
his little ruse, and we told him that by a 
tip to his crew the reis (captain) would bring 
us back five minutes into a new month, he 
smiled broadly, and dismissed this special 
clause. 

But the signing of the contract was a long 
and tedious affair. Several times the trans- 
action seemed to be entirely off, at which 
moments we and our two interpreters retired 



4 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

to one side of the deck — for the meetings 
were held on the deck of the houseboat in 
question — while the owners and their wit- 
nesses huddled against the opposite rail. 
Then gradually we would approach each 
other^ and the parliament would resume the 
appearance of coming to a conclusion. This 
was repeated over and over again. Each 
step of the way, each line in the contract was 
in turn the subject of keen scrutiny and par- 
ley, for the wording of the contract had 
been left to us, and the owners seemed to 
suspect each clause of containing some mine 
which might later explode to their discom- 
fiture. 

The holding of our parleys on the house- 
boat itself reminded one of a coroner's jury 
sitting in debate upon an interesting case, 
for since there was no place at the hotel and 
no place at the simple homes of the owners, 
we were forced to run over on the railroad 
from Assouan to Shellal for each meeting. 
Did we say run ? We should have said creep ; 
for that railroad train across that six miles of 
desert has always the semblance of an animal 
creeping slowly up to his prey. It starts 
very quietly, and stealthily crawls along 



THAT CONTRACT 5 

between wastes of sand and around rock 
boulders, as if wishing to arrive unsuspected 
and unannounced. 

We started out each morning with fresh 
courage, in the cool, lovely air, and came 
back dejected and tired in the high noonday 
sun. 

At last one morning the fat, sleek young 
partner asked one of our interpreters if he 
thought he had got all he possibly could 
out of us, and on hearing that he had, he 
agreed to accept our terms. So we shook 
hands, touched our hearts all round, and 
separated. 

But if we thought the affair over, we were 
mistaken ; we forgot how an Easterner can 
retract and retreat. That very afternoon 
the session was reopened at Assouan. We 
talked the matter over separately, with only 
the interested parties, then seated on divans 
in the presence of the English vice-consul, 
then before some of the hotel officials. It 
was at length decided to refer all the points 
in question — and new ones seemed to arise 
every half hour — to the mudir of the vil- 
lage. But he could not be got at for a day 
or more; so the difficulties were finally 



6 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

smoothed out by our dignified host of the 
Assouan Hotel. The settlement was ad- 
vanced by well-placed compliments to the 
sleek young partner, such as " Sitt's " appeal 
to him to have the sailors of the crew " hand- 
some men like yourself." When he was for 
demanding all the money in advance, we told 
him that rich men such as he and his part- 
ner appeared to be could have no real need 
of money in hand before the time stipulated 
in the contract. When he was for starting 
us off without the required number of blan- 
kets, a little appeal, " Would he let the Sitt 
be cold ? " caused him forthwith to declare 
that they would all be forthcoming. And 
the contract was at last sealed and signed 
with characters of spider-spun thinness run- 
ning from right to left across the page. 

The questions of our fresh meat supply 
and our mail delivery were next in order, and 
these were settled by concluding to do almost 
without the former, and through a personal 
courtesy from the war office as to the latter. 
The manager of the Upper Nile mail service 
agreed, as a special favor, that its boats 
should slow up and lower the mail into our 
row-boat, which would be towed along by a 



THAT CONTRACT 7 

line while the mail and our weekly supply of 
bread were delivered. 

But how we should put our mail aboard 
the post-boat on its down trip was a question 
he was not prepared to answer, for these 
boats fly along with the stream, and a small 
boat could not approach with safety. He 
advised leaving letters at some side river 
post-office. 

This weekly passing of the post-boat will 
be our only glimpse of white faces for the 
next few weeks, for the river is this year 
so low that dahabeahs from the lower river 
cannot be got up the cataract. 

When Miss Edwards anchored at Abou 
Simbel some thirty years ago, there were six 
or seven houseboats exchanging all the com- 
pliments of the Upper Nile season, but so far 
as we know, we shall have our Mecca, for 
such the temple of Abou Simbel really is, in 
all the grandeur of its isolation and loneli- 
ness. 

Now it became known in the village that 
the Sitt was looking for some fine turkeys to 
take along for the voyage, at least two, one 
for Christmas and one for New Year's Day ; 
and a man arrived driving some splendid 



8 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

birds before him, followed by a crowd of at 
least ten persons, who were to assist at the 
buying and selling. 

It was, however, too much to expect that 
the bargain could be struck the first day. 
The turkey vendor held to his price and Sitt 
held to hers ; he asked eight shillings for the 
two and she offered six. She might quite as 
well amuse herself in this as in any other 
w^ay, for the crates and boxes of provisions 
and stores were still on their way up from 
Cairo, and the voyage could not begin until 
they arrived and were all aboard. It was 
quite dark when the turkey-man left the 
hotel, still driving those turkeys before him, 
and hoping, as he said in parting, that Sitt 
would give him his price in the morning. 



CHAPTER II 

MAKING HISTORY 

As the Howadji smoked his pipe before 
the hotel door next morning, along came a 
lot of natives carrying officers' luggage and 
Soudan traps, closely followed by the hero 
of the late battle of Ombarakat — Wingate 
Pacha himself — with his aide-de-camp and the 
commandant of Assouan. The future Sirdar 
is in civilian's dress, but his aide-de-camp 
still in khaki uniform. It seems an incred- 
ibly short time since news came down of the 
capture and death of the Khalifa, and we feel 
that his head may well be in one of the tin 
boxes ; but we are assured that this is not the 
case, and that he received suitable burial not 
far from where he fell. 

"And what did you consider suitable 
burial?" we asked. 

" A hole in the ground, while one of the 
officers looked on to see if the hole was deep 
enough." 



10 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Though they say we are mistaken about 
his head being in one of the boxes, it is not 
long before his " gibbah " is spread out on 
the flagstones of the hotel court like a lion 
skin that some " big game " man might have 
brought in. The gibbah, the patched shirt 
of the Khalifa, in which he met his death, is 
of quite new white cotton cloth, the patches of 
colored stuffs sewn neatly here and there, in 
imitation of the patches upon the garment 
of an humble prophet. In the centre is the 
hole by which the bullet entered his breast, 
around are the spots of blood from the death 
wound, and that he must have fallen on 
his left side is proved by the blood having 
trickled down that side of this battle coat. 
For in a gibbah any fellah is in battle attire, 
while once out of his gibbah a soldier assumes 
the guise of a fellah. 

This Assouan courtyard is often the centre 
of interest. The last exhibition we remember 
as taking place here was that of an immense 
fish of nearly a hundred pounds, caught in 
the cataract and hung here on a gibbet, the 
better for the hotel guests to examine his 
weighty presence. 

On another occasion it was the luggage 



MAKING HISTORY 11 

and booty of some of the French officers re- 
turning from Fashoda, " on sick leave/' they 
told us, bringing with them skins, and ele- 
phants' tusks, and more things than we can 
now remember ; but this year it is a few camp 
necessities and a few arms from the Soudan, 
that Soudan which is now open to European 
traffic and improvements, to modern and 
humane manners and customs. " Gordon is 
avenged," as Lord Salisbury puts it, and the 
outposts of civilization thrown hundreds of 
miles to the south, for the Khalifa and all 
Gordon's enemies, save the crafty Osman 
Digma,^ who ran away to fight another day, 
are dead. They have paid that long-owed 
debt, and the hero, who lies in St. Paul's 
Cathedral, is even now less dead than they 
who have fallen but yesterday. 

Our voyage up the Nile is happening in 
a historic year. It is the lowest Nile for 
hundreds of years ; it is the year of the 
opening of the Soudan ; and it is the year 
of the last long voyage of Meneptah, — the 
Pharaoh of the Exodus, — whose mummy 
has been lately taken down to Cairo from 

1 Osman Digma has since been captured and imprisoned. 



12 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

the tomb at Thebes. He whose chariots and 
horses perished so long ago in the Red Sea 
has had a quiet sail down river in a bigger 
houseboat than he ever probably saw with 
living eyes. 



CHAPTER III 

SAILING SOUTH 

An important success has been achieved 
to-day : a cook has been engaged. Fortunes 
might be lost and won again while we dis- 
cussed the cook, the cook's certificates of 
conduct, certificates of capacity, wilHngness, 
and honesty. 

The question of what he could cook, of 
what others had wished him to cook, what 
we hoped he could, would, or should cook, 
left us with the dazed feeling that no cordon 
bleu was worth so many if's, and ah's, and 
la's. No one could have helped being tired 
out with the whole subject. No chef's best 
attainments were equal to what he said he 
could do, and all for three pounds sterling 
per month. Just as one has often wished to 
be as easily clothed as the lilies of the field, 
so now we wished to be fed by the ravens, 
like Elijah, or with manna, like the Israel- 
ites, even if the menu, like theirs, should be 



14 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

the same each day. However, our caste in 
Upper Eg3rpt society apparently depends on 
having a good cook, for the interpreter and 
others have shown more interest in this than 
in any other point of our preparations. 

The longest lane has a turning, and the 
most minute preparations against shipwreck 
and starvation come to an end, and finally 
we find ourselves one afternoon, and Friday 
into the bargain, taking possession of our 
houseboat — still moored at Shellal opposite 
the island of Philse. Bag, baggage, bundles, 
boxes, crates, and packages are at last on 
board. We are to sail early the next morn- 
ing. At nightfall we observe the cook steal- 
ing away up the bank : we catch him just 
in time, and on being questioned he declares 
that he cannot sail without first going back 
to the village for his clothes. Now the 
village is some distance the other side of 
Assouan, so the Howadji refuses to listen 
to any such excuse, packs him back, and tells 
AUi, our " man Friday," not to lose sight of 
him. Alii has his hands already full, for 
the camels from Assouan are arriving with 
firewood and charcoal, with crates filled with 
chickens, clay goulehs for water, potatoes, 



SAILING SOUTH 15 

onions, and petroleum, flatirons, lemons, and 
washing soda, blankets, traveling bags, and 
green-lined umbrellas. Have we laid in an 
undue quantity of coal and wood, or is it 
that camels carry less than their long legs 
and broad backs would indicate, and how 
can so many be needed to carry our impedi- 
menta? As they thread their way toward 
us coming from one direction, a procession 
of natives draws near from the other, from 
the direction of the Shellal railroad sheds. 

The stores from Cairo ! 

Every want in the coming weeks has evi- 
dently been anticipated ; nor is a wish to be 
ungratified, for natives big and natives little 
bear along boxes big and boxes little, — the 
smallest native with the largest package, 
and each big six-footer with some tiny jewel- 
case of a parcel; small round kegs; large 
flat crates ; boxes marked " Keep dry," others 
marked " Fragile." 

All these ours ? Impossible ! 

This is, indeed, traveling " en prince." 
Little wonder that gold sovereigns and paper 
fivers have melted away like wax in a candle 
flame. At least we have something to show 
for our lightened wallets, for we are bound 



16 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

for six weeks along banks where supplies 
may not be renewed. To forget to-day is to 
go without for many a long day. 

We are fairly overwhelmed with packages 
large and small — and all to be stored away 
before the short November day closes in. 
For there are no electric buttons at hand; 
candles and candlesticks are still packed up, 
and even empty bottles, which would have 
been acceptable as candlesticks, are hard to 
find. Later on we had no difficulty on this 
score, for of all places in the world for thirst, 
the Upper Nile is the greatest. 

All worked with hammers and hatchets, 
and the cases were being gradually unpacked 
when an impudent fellow, accompanied by a 
local policeman, came aboard and began a 
dispute with the already much occupied AUi. 
The Howadji ordered him off the boat, but 
he was stupid enough to refuse to go until 
he had been turned around and kicked ashore 
with the policeman following him. So our 
troubles had already begun, for the two sat 
on the shore and demanded that Alii, whom 
they took to be a dragoman, should go with 
them to the officer of the post. 

Now the Sitt was dragoman of this boat. 



SAILING SOUTH 17 

and Alii but a faithful dog of a servant from 
Cairo ; so the former sent them away, while 
they loudly repeated their demand that Alii 
should go with them. The unpacking con- 
tinued for some ten minutes with success, 
and when ten men are unpacking, each five 
minutes is something gained. Soon, however, 
it was again interrupted, the two reappear- 
ing upon the shore, and calling out that 
"bockra," to-morrow, would not do, that 
Alii must come with them to-day. 

" They say," translated Alii from behind 
a barricade of bottles and pantry requisites, 
'' that if I come ashore they will arrest me." 
There was nothing to do, therefore, but for 
the Howadji to go with them to see the offi- 
cer in command. He found a polite native 
lieutenant speaking a mixture of French and 
Italian, who explained that the native had 
made the charge that he had carried bundles 
to the houseboat for which carriage he had 
not been paid. 

" And how much is it he says I owe him ? " 
asked the Howadji. 

" He claims that you owe him three pias- 
tres " (fifteen cents). 

The Howadji paid the claim, and then 



18 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

brought a counter-charge against the native 
and the pohceman for coming aboard his 
boat without permission. The pohceman was 
forthwith reprimanded, and told to arrest the 
native offender and carry him off, while the 
Howadji remained a minute to smoke a cig- 
arette with the lieutenant, with whom he in- 
terchanged compliments and explanations. 

But it had grown quite dark in these few 
moments, and the difficulty was to find the 
way back to the boat between the bazaars 
and palm-trees. 

" Can you send a man to light me ba:ck ? " 

" Most certainly ; and by the way, will you 
pardon the porter ? " 

Which question being amply answered by 
a wave of the hand, the lieutenant called 
the offending native from behind a pile of 
goods boxes, told him he was pardoned, 
and ordered him to light the Howadji back 
to his boat. So the torch-bearer received 
another piastre when he reached the daha- 
beah, and it was not until the Howadji was 
in his bunk that night that he came to real- 
ize that he had been done again, and to won- 
der how the native, the policeman, and the 
lieutenant had divided the three piastres. It 



SAILING SOUTH 19 

was such a small amount of backsheesh to 
cause so much trouble. 

After examination it is found that matches 
and stamps are the only things which have 
been forgotten^ and an early visit to the 
bazaars must be put through before we can 
weigh anchor and leave the friendly neigh- 
borhood of Cook & Son, of Pagnon, of civil 
hospital where drugs must be bought, and of 
government post-office where mail is made up. 

Matches and stamps are now on board, and 
all waiting for the English mail, in which we 
hope there will be a bundle of letters and 
papers to take with us on our way. We had 
hoped to be off early in the morning, but 
since there is an English mail at noon we 
decided to wait, and carry off the late news 
from the seat of war in South Africa, with 
letters from friends at home ; and, moreover, 
there is no wind ; and, still further, the caulk- 
ing of the small boat has not been finished. 

As we sit on the deck opposite Philse, we 
cannot help noticing how every aspect of the 
shores has changed in the last three years. 
Quiet then reigned on all sides : now there 
are derricks on almost every point of rock; 
bazaars for provisions, crockery, meat, and 



20 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

bread; engineers' tents and camps; and blast- 
ing at noon and at nightfall. 

Opposite Philse are the government head- 
quarters, a new post-office, a brigade, a hos- 
pital, a freight depot, and several yards where 
old boats are being repaired. The shops, of 
course, leave much to be desired, and among 
them all it is impossible to find a tin bucket. 
Any one needing a tin bucket had evidently 
done what we now do — bought an empty 
petroleum can, and by means of cutting, bor- 
ing, and rope handle, improvised an exceed- 
ingly capacious, easily handled vessel. Ours 
was at once put to a very amusing use, for 
when, before leaving, the cook bought his 
eggs, he filled the bucket with water and 
tossed each egg into it. If the egg sank, it 
was deemed good, if it floated or threatened 
to float, it was given back to the hucksters — 
and what was worth noting, we do not think 
this test ever failed us. 

The mail has scarcely been aboard five 
minutes when Sitt notices a little wind stirring 
in the tops of the palms, and the first noon 
blast has scarcely sounded when the reis is 
notified to untie our houseboat, for we are 
going. 



SAILmG SOUTH 21 

The crew loafing on the bank, talking to 
a lot of native women, silently come aboard, 
the big sail is hoisted, and off we go amidst 
cheers from the shore and a perfect roar of 
artillery from the midday blasting. Our 
small boat drags along behind us, one side 
bright red, the other side to be painted later 
with indigo blue trimmings. 

There is an old adage that too many cooks 
spoil the broth, but I hope our houseboat 
may prove an exception to this rule, for the 
tallest man on the boat is our cook, and the 
smallest human being aboard is the cook for 
the crew. We nearly miss seeing the sunset 
because of this little cook baking the grid- 
dle cakes for the men's supper. He is about 
eleven years old, and yet the swing with 
which he turns his fifteen-inch-in-diameter 
cakes is as clever as the casserole toss of a 
cordon bleu. He grinds his own corn, he 
pounds the wheat or other grain, adds flour 
or meal from a large sack, spreads the mix- 
ture on the griddle with his hands, which 
seem to stand fire as well as the salamander 
of fable renown, and serves an appetizing pile 
of these cakes to the ten men of the crew. 
There is one cake each — all of the same 



22 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

size and thickness^ one as brown as another ; 
even his own is in no way better than those 
he prepares for the others. 

We sail until long after sunset, until it is 
quite dark, and then tie up somewhere near 
Kertassi, we are told. The boats which had 
followed us all day tie up behind us to the 
same bank, rather nearer than is agreeable, 
for the continued talking of their occupants 
is as disagreeable as the smoke of their fires. 
It is too dark to make it advisable to change 
our moorings, for their fires will soon be out 
and they as well as we soon asleep. But it is 
not till we are stretched for the first time in 
our bunks that we find, tired though we are, 
that sleep within the sound of the saqquia is an 
impossibility. In the shadow of one or more 
great trees, and always in a fertile tract, it is 
difficult to realize that anything so picturesque 
can be so vexatious, so teasing, so annoying 
as a saqquia. To quote from Charles Dudley 
Warner's description of a saqquia : '' Over 
the well is a wheel, upon which is hung an 
endless rope of plain fibres, and on its outer 
rim are tied earthen jars. As the wheel re- 
volves these jars dip into the well, and com- 
ing up discharge the water into a wooden 



m 



■^m 



%\ ' ki'y.f. 



^m ' 



m 



A 






•':^/ 




f'.' 



»^^#///?. 



'#/f/ 



*L 






\ -x 



A WONDERFUL BUILDER OF GRIDDLE CAKES 



SAILING SOUTH 23 

trough, whence it flows into channels of 
earth. The cogs of the wheel fit into an- 
other, and the motive power of the clumsy 
machine is furnished by a couple of oxen or 
cows, hitched to a pole swinging round an 
upright shaft. A little girl seated on the 
end of the pole is driving the oxen, whose 
slow, hitching gait sets the machine rattling 
and squeaking as if in pain. Nothing is 
exactly in gear ; the bearings are never 
oiled, half the water is spilled before it gets 
to the trough ; but the thing keeps grinding 
on night and day." 

Thus it has gone on for thousands of years. 

We send a sailor to the saqquia driver 
with a bribe and orders to stop the machine 
during the night. He is gone a long time, 
and finally returns, saying that the driver is 
the slave of '^ big sheik " up in the village, 
and dares not stop. 

" Why did n't you go to see the sheik ? " 
asks the Howadji. 

" He is very far away in the village." 

" Then give me back the money." 

" The driver kept it." 

Here we have been done again, and no- 
thing short of corporal punishment seems fit 



24 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

to mete out to the sailor as well as to the 
saqquia driver. 

And still the grinding, groaning, squeak- 
ing o£ the saqquia continues. 

While we are feeling quite powerless, so 
far as bettering our condition is concerned, 
Alii comes into the cabin, carefully shutting 
the door behind him, and says, — 

'' When he change cows, I make him ; I 
take big piece of Sitt's soap, never you 
mind. " 

An hour later there is a lull ; we heave 
sighs of relief and guiltily wonder what has 
happened up at the saqquia ; but soon we 
fall into sound sleep, and know nothing until 
the sun is about rising, when we hear excited 
voices above us on the shore with excited 
replies from some one on our lower deck. 

The Howadji slips into ulster and slippers 
and goes forth to find AUi quietly dusting 
about in the saloon, and the crew busied in 
poling off from shore, leaving an excited 
crowd gesticulating and yelling, and appar- 
ently accusing the crew of something they 
indignantly deny. 

The sheik and his servants we find have 
come down from the village above, fearing 



SAILING SOUTH 25 

that some accident had happened to the saq- 
quia, and are looking for the man who soaped 
the wheel, thereby causing the groaning to 
cease. We feel that an international epi- 
sode may have been avoided by the rapidity 
with which the reis gets that boat into mid- 
stream. 

We made about twenty-five miles the first 
day, but had been so busy in storing our- 
selves away in our houseboat that we had no 
time for scanning even cursorily the land- 
scape on each side; and now we are about 
to pass through the Gate of Kalabshy, where 
the narrowed river runs between walls of 
rock of such weird color that Dore could 
have well chosen it for one of his more grue- 
some pictures. The rocks would deceive a 
casual observer, who could see many resem- 
blances to volcanic deposit, dark slate and 
black boulders cut into seams and ridges by 
the water as it rushes through at high Nile, 
while others are exactly the color of the 
famous bronze water-carrier of the Naples 
Museum. It is a strangely picturesque spot, 
with villages climbing up and down the 
slopes. Outside the houses are rows of great 
sun-dried jars, higher than a man's head, for 



26 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

holding grain, which from the river look like 
huge sacks standing in line, like that into 
which AH Baba was thrust when fairy tales 
were reaHties. We have ample time for tak- 
ing in every detail, for the light morning 
wind has dwindled to the gentlest of zephyrs, 
and instead of drawing strongly through this 
narrow gorge speeds lightly, while we recall 
different points on the sail up the Saguenay 
River, and compare the heights of the various 
points with the rock of Edinboro town. 

Behind the headlands one catches sight 
of patches of green and occasional slopes of 
brilliant yellow sand, slipping and running 
down into the flats just as the glaciers of 
Switzerland run down the mountain sides ; 
while the latter look hard and gray, these 
have all the brilHancy of gold and the soft- 
ness of loose sand. 

The river is gradually cutting into the left 
bank, to the great danger of luxuriant palms, 
eating the very life away from them, and 
leaving them with projecting roots and no- 
thing to support their long, heavy trunks 
and wind-swept tops. The guide-books tell 
us nothing about the two islands on which 
we see interesting ruins, and we feel that 



SAILING SOUTH 27 

perhaps this may be our chance for making 
some discoveries of our own ; but the reis is 
rather discouraging ; by a shrug of his shoul- 
ders the positive assertion, "Mafeesh anti- 
qua," conveys the information that they are 
Roman remains, nothing but ruins perhaps a 
thousand or fifteen hundred years old, which 
in Egypt is but yesterday, and of no interest 
to specialists or excursionists ; and, there- 
fore, he judges, of none to us. 

A few minutes later even the gentle zephyr 
leaves us in the lurch, and the calm is so en- 
tire that the Howadji begins his first sketch 
of Upper Nile ; in place of wind and rippling 
waters we have lovely reflections, which make 
a painter's opportunity. 

As we lie becalmed, a procession of women 
come down from some Httle hamlet behind 
the rocks to fill their water jars at the river's 
brink. Their sweeping gowns are a shade 
lighter than the mud of the river bank, and 
as they come, winding their way between the 
almost black rocks and boulders, the gold 
rings in their noses glint in the sun, rings as 
large as those in the average Italian chromo. 

Little children run by their side, the boys 
in a state of nature and the girls with little 



28 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

hip fringes, quite sufficient clothing for this 
region, where we find the heat greater even 
than at Assouan. If the Tropic of Cancer 
is thus in December, what must it be when 
His Majesty Sol favors this special spot with 
his direct attention at the summer solstice? 
Women alongshore are busying them- 
selves working around and about thorny 
henna bushes, from which they are picking 
berries. The bushes are as green as the 
juice of the berries is red, and are not unlike 
vineyards in certain parts of France. 

Before going ashore for a walk we busy 
ourselves about some houseboat details ; for 
houseboats need as much attention as other 
kinds of houses. We have n't measured ours 
yet, but some day we shall, and can then be 
explicit and intelligible on all the minor 
points of our two saloons, one fore and one 
stern ; our two decks, the upper for us and 
the lower for the crew ; our mainsail, with its 
sweep one hundred and fifty feet long, and 
our stern sail; our Stars and Stripes from 
the flagstaff and our pennant which floats 
from the end of our big yard ; our kitchen 
in the bow and the crew's kitchen on the 



SAILING SOUTH 29 

lower deck ; our four little cabins, well-filled 
storehouse, and ship's pantry. 

The cabin carpet is bright red Brussels, 
with such large flowers that one bouquet is 
sufficient to fill the saloon and part of the 
passageway, while there is enough blue 
chintz with yellow fringe at all the cabin and 
saloon windows to smother us, or to open a 
second-hand furnishing establishment. The 
couches or sofas of the saloon are so high 
that we are forced into the Eastern cross- 
legged attitude in order to sit on them at all, 
and after we are all seated — for there are 
only two of us — there is room left in one 
of the sofa corners for our library of about 
twenty volumes, while in another are wraps, 
hats, opera-glasses, and all the things which 
are needed a hundred times each day. There 
are no shelves to put anything on, and no 
time to put things away or to get them out, 
for one can take cold while going for a wrap 
when the wind changes, and the slowest one- 
legged ibis grows another leg and two wings 
and flies away while you get a glass to exam- 
ine him the better. It is no use having St. 
Galmier or whiskey and soda put away, for 
the former is kept on tap, and so many empty 



30 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

quart bottles marked St. Galmier are thrown 
overboard each day that an onlooker who did 
not see the label would be scandalized. 

The upper deck of our houseboat is a de- 
light ; it is like a roof with an awning spread 
over it. All day long the sun keeps it bright 
and attractive, and at night the lights from 
the saloon below shine up through the net- 
tings and colored glass of the skylight. The 
sofas and tables of the deck are covered with 
Eastern cotton draperies, which are well fas- 
tened at the corners, for otherwise the sudden 
gusts of wind would snatch them away with- 
out warning. The rugs spread upon the 
deck are heavy enough to take care of them- 
selves, and the boxes of plants and palms 
will last us our time aboard, and beyond that 
we refuse to interest ourselves. 

Along the deck side are bound the great 
sweeps which will come into use on the down 
trip, for the poet says, — 

" The way to Egypt is long and vexatious." 

There are several companionways lead- 
ing from the lower deck and saloons to the 
upper deck, and we often wonder how many 



SAILING SOUTH 31 

times we go up and down these steps each 
day. 

When coming on board, Sitt wondered 
how she should keep herself amused. How- 
adji, of course, has his work. Though it 
would be difficult to tell what she has to 
occupy her, each day sHps away, and there 
is never a moment of wearisomeness. 



CHAPTER IV 

WHAT WE LEARN 

Why not pass these moments while wait- 
ing for the wind ashore, in a scramble up the 
banks and along some of the paths ? It has 
been more than twenty-four hours since we 
were on dry land. The idea seems excellent, 
and we act upon it. We dare not go far, for 
there are at last signs of wind, and we must 
move on when we can. 

We are no sooner on shore than a native 
approaches us from a field near by carrying 
a large knife, with red morocco case. He 
does not come with murderous intent; he 
only hopes to find a purchaser for his wea- 
pon. Before he reaches us, he is intercepted 
byAUi. 

" Sowereen ? " (travelers), the native que- 
ries. 

'' La, nohandis " (engineers), answers AUi. 

And without another look in our direction 
the fellah goes back to his seed-sowing, for 



WHAT WE LEARN 33 

the word " nohandis " means to him people 
who come up or down the river on govern- 
ment or other business. The natives respect 
and fear those who come to measure or to 
count, to levy or collect taxes, or to survey ; 
they are, moreover, never purchasers of the 
so-called ^' antiquas." 

The wind having now come, we cannot 
stop at Kalabshy to see the temple ruins and 
explore the village; the outlines of many 
points look interesting from the river, and 
there is page after page about its attraction 
in " A Thousand Miles up the Nile," as well 
as in other guide-books of this region. But 
we are sure to come back this way ; so we 
decide to push on. 

The villagers have not thought such a 
course on our part possible, and have come 
from far and near to see us disembark. 
They have weapons, bracelets, rings, and 
strings of beads for sale, and stare with open 
eyes and mouths at us. They finally take 
position like a band waiting for a Captain 
John Smith, all in a row, — and their equa- 
nimity at our going perhaps arises from the 
fact that they, too, know we must come back 
this way. 



34: OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

One who did not pause to watch us was 
a small boy whose occupation was to run 
up and down the pole of a shadoof. When 
the bucket at one end of the pole was to 
be dropped, he ran to that end ; when the 
bucket was to be lifted, he ran along the bare 
pole to the other end. Lots of things like 
levels, fulcrums, etc., came to Sitt's mind, but 
whether the small boy was serving as one or 
another of these long-forgotten things, she 
could not now be sure. Whatever he was, 
the business in hand was more important to 
him than a close inspection of us, and we 
marked him down as one of the few to whom 
our coming and going was not of paramount 
importance. 

Our crew wear blue jeans trousers drawn 
on a string, with a loose shirt of blue outside, 
and a waistcoat of striped silk is allowed to 
hang from the shoulders. Their legs are 
bare, and when their feet are not bare they 
are covered with red morocco slippers, while 
their heads are muffted in various white or 
red or yellow wrappings, according to the 
time of day. Early in the morning their 
heads are entirely lost in these swaddling 
bands, while at high noon they come down 



''^ 



f 



f 



tS^^x 




\ ' 



/ 



REIS MOHAMMED 



WHAT WE LEARN 35 

to first principles and wear cotton skull- 
caps. 

Their names are a constant source of 
amusement; " Nasoof," meaning " good-look- 
ing/' is the blackest of the pack ; " Sais/' 
which means "happy/' seems always to have 
a grievance, and to be anything but what his 
name implies ; " Fadder/' which any one can 
tell means " silver/' is the poorest looking ; 
while " Dahab/' meaning gold, is the best of 
the lot. 

Our reis is very suitably named Moham- 
med, " prophet " or " leader." Others have 
no names in particular, and seem to answer 
to any. Some are amiable, and do not only 
their own work but others' ; some continu- 
ally shirk, even to the point of dropping away 
from the towing-line to say their prayers on 
the edge of the stream. While these pray 
the willing ones work, and rare it is to have 
an out and out row. They do not seem to 
feel extremes of heat and cold ; they are in 
and out of the water, and in and out of the 
sun, with composure ; which to us of the 
North would be almost unbearable. 

As we have moved south, we have frankly 
done away with collars and cravats at high 



36 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

noon, and yet require all kinds of extra 
wraps for night or dawn. The crew are 
gradually dispensing with one garment after 
another, and are almost in primitive drapery 
at midday. Clothes do not form an impor- 
tant item in a Nubian yearly account, for 
the garment in daily use is washed out on 
going to bed and put on again the follow- 
ing day. 

We are making good headway and coming 
gradually to a point opposite a whitewashed 
building which has been for some time in 
sight. As we approach, a man, who has 
been lying on the bank, gets up and unlocks 
the door of the whitewashed house, evidently 
expecting a visit from us ; for this is our first 
Nubian post-office. We are, however, so 
taken with the love of sailing before the 
wind, a condition which has been held up to 
us as an ideal one, that we continue on our 
way while he stands waiting. 

Later in the day we have a chance to stop 
at a place called "" Taffey," but since we are 
sure that this Taff ey never came to our house, 
we feel no obligation to return his visit, and 
again glide by. 

We have been learning much in the last 



WHAT WE LEARN 37 

several days, not the least that the simplest 
stop of but a few minutes causes entire de- 
moralization among the crew, and that when 
one is lucky enough to have a good wind 
here, he had better push on. It may be, too, 
some ambitious strain in our American nature 
that gives us the desire to push on, to forge 
ahead to the end rather than to linger along 
road or river. 

The want of variety in our bills of fare 
is, alas ! due to Sitt's limited knowledge of 
Arabic and the Arab cook's attainment in 
English. We go to market each day — in 
the storeroom, where Armour's sliced bacon, 
dried tongues from Cairo, potted jams from 
England, tinned fruits from California, stand 
ranged in line. Sitt feels as if her baby 
days had come back, and with them the 
delights of having dolls who come to shop 
in her grocery store. There is no lack of 
stores or in their variety, but the lack is in her 
capacity to explain her simplest wishes. One 
meal will get mixed with another, and what 
seems to have been misunderstood for one is 
sure to be served up at the next. The best 
arranged menu will get muddled, and the 
" bowsprit get mixed with the rudder." 



CHAPTER V 

A RUNAWAY GHIASHA 

It is on Sunday mornings the first Sun- 
day in Advent^ that we find there has been 
a murder on board. It might have been 
worse, but again it need not have happened 
at all. To make a long story short, our big 
hedgehog, who should have known better, 
has killed our little hedgehog ; the remains, 
which were thrown into the river, were fig- 
uratively and literally remains, for the old 
savage had eaten portions of his poor little 
confrere. 

We had bargained for those two hedge- 
hogs over the railing of Shepheard's Hotel 
in Cairo, and they had been AUi's chosen 
companions all the way up the river. Why 
did we want hedgehogs on a dahabeah ? 
Nothing more nor less than that they are 
supposed to eat water-bugs, and since we had 
heard long accounts of these domesticated 
animals, we bought the antidote before we 



A RUNAWAY GHIASHA 39 

had the disease. But we bought ourselves no 
end of trouble with that pair of hedgehogs, 
for once it was known about the Sharia El 
Gamel that we were buying such things, ven- 
dors of all kinds of small animals beset our 
path. We were importuned to buy scorpions, 
a mongoose, while tame snakes, small birds, 
and monkeys were fairly thrust into our faces. 
Nor did it stop there. If we were known to 
buy small animals, why should not stuffed 
ones interest us as much as live ones ? Stuffed 
alligators and small crocodiles were soon in 
line. The owners could not be made to under- 
stand that we were not making a collection 
of animals, alive and stuffed, as well as of 
reptiles and vermin. 

Egypt is a land of collectors, and these 
traders reasoned, perhaps, that if some col- 
lect pieces of old and apparently worthless 
pottery, why should not some others also col- 
lect animals and reptiles ? 

So far as our hedgehogs were concerned, 
they were not a success beyond amusing us 
by hunching up their backs and rolling them- 
selves into balls at the sound of a human 
voice. They never learned to distinguish 
our tenderest caress from an enemy's attack, 



40 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

and they were pointed in resenting advances 
of any kind. Sitt never quite understood 
the force of the expression " to bristle up/' 
and to " get one's back up," until she owned 
these hedgehogs. They were forever getting 
lost in the cabins, but so soon as night came 
they would trot about, and scratch about, 
until the hedgehog remedy was worse than 
the water-bug disease. Now that the little 
one was no more, we gave his murderous 
big brother to the reis, on condition that he 
should be put on shore or kept in the sail- 
ors' quarters. 

This will be in many ways a memorable 
Advent Sunday, for there is not a ripple on 
the river, the reflection is marvelously clear, 
the sky cloudless ; and the silence Sitt de- 
cides to be the greatest she has ever heard ; 
or so at least she confides to Howadji, for 
the Irish blood in her veins will occasionally 
assert itself. There is no twitter of bird, no 
hum of bee, no buzz of insect, not the least 
sound of any kind. 

Some days the sailors are a bit noisy ; at 
other times an occasional voice reaches us 
from alongshore, and a teasing saqquia breaks 
the silence ; but we sail so quietly, and the 



A RUNAWAY GHIASHA 41 

occasional mud huts and houses on the land 
are so exactly the color of the earth from 
which they have been made and with which 
they are surrounded, that we feel as if we are 
the only living things about ; only by the use 
of strong field-glasses are these objects dis- 
cernible ; perhaps in bygone days, when der- 
vishes were abroad, it was no small advantage, 
mind you, to be overlooked. 

What is surprising us hourly is that each 
day has its changes and variety ; if these are 
not inside our houseboat, they are outside. 
With but two banks and one river it is aston- 
ishing how continual is the change — a trick 
of nature, you may say : for with but two 
eyes, one nose, one mouth, and two ears, how 
differing are human countenances. 

We dressed ship this morning, and sofas 
and tables are covered with gay toiles de Gene. 
We are apparently followed by a flotilla of 
ghiashas, for the reflections of their prows 
and sails convert what are in reality but four 
cargo-boats into double that number. Their 
tall sails, over a hundred feet high, sweep 
all in one direction, ready to catch any stray 
breeze from the hills hard by, and each out- 
Hne of prow, sail, and yard is mirrored in 



42 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

the unbroken surface of the river. If ever 
reflections were clearer and stronger than the 
objects of which they were the reflections, 
these are they. Before midday the men, 
who have been poling during most of the 
morning, give over work, tie our houseboat 
up to the bank, and gather about their Sun- 
day dinner. It is not served in courses or 
on a white cover, but from a great bowl, from 
which each in turn takes a dip. Was ever 
sauce so good as the appetite each brings 
with him, and were ever sweetbreads so good 
as this bean stew ? 

The ghiashas are likewise tied up to await 
the wind; each crew settles itself about a 
similar bowl of refreshment, and as each man 
has his fill, he throws himself full length upon 
a ledge of the hard bank and is soon snoring 
lustily. 

Howadji thinks that a sketch, even one 
at midday, would be a pleasing souvenir of 
this wondrous day, so he settles to work, with 
his faithful AUi hard by, keeping the sun off 
by means of an immense sketching umbrella, 
and the flies off by means of a limber fly- 
brush of split palm, which he plies diligently 
and silently. 



A RUNAWAY GHIASHA 43 

The group of ghiashas cannot be improved 
upon as a foreground, nor the violet gray 
mud-bank indented by the river as the set- 
ting. Sitt hovers around, knowing that after 
the first drawing is over she can chatter away 
to her heart's content without fear of hurting 
the sketch, which is sure some day to be hers ; 
for there will never be time to finish it, and 
since she makes a specialty of unfinished 
things, she will claim this as her due. 

Sure enough her presentiments are nearer 
right than they generally are, for an hour is 
scarcely gone when, without a word of warn- 
ing, one of the ghiashas, which had a mo- 
ment before been lying so lifeless and help- 
less, is more than alive, and absolutely makes 
its escape into deep water before the sleeping 
crew is aware of what is happening. The 
wind has come, and though the crews may 
have time to go sleeping on, the ghiasha 
seems to feel it must be off. 

There is a rush into the river, and before 
the awakened men get beyond their depth, 
or have more than half their waking senses, 
the runaway has been recaptured, the yards 
made fast, and the rudder put about. It 
is as she predicted to herself, Howadji's 



44 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

sketch will never be finished, for the fore- 
ground is thus broken up, and before he 
decides what to do, our Stars and Stripes 
floats gayly out with this new breeze, and 
we too must be off. 

That a breeze can so quickly affect the 
face of all nature is surprising. The stately 
palms not only flutter with these caresses of 
zephyrs, but give forth little rustlings of de- 
light. The shouts of surprise and joy from 
the men of the various crews are so loud that 
from a high rock, halfway up the hill, ap- 
pears a small donkey on which is perched a 
real live Nubian policeman in red tarboosh 
and khaki breeches — quite the " dudiest " 
thing we have seen since leaving Philse. 

Within fifteen minutes we are all under 
way ; even the runaway ghiasha, which lost 
his head, — for even a ghiasha can do that 
sometimes, — has fallen into line, and all are 
wondering what point on the map can be 
gained that evening, and to what spot we can 
move our tiny little flag, which marks off each 
day's run just as if we were an Atlantic racer 
or an ocean greyhound. 

Our Stars and Stripes at the stern is bris- 
tling with importance, and has n't even time 



'^*^ 



X 



-^Mh 



^^m 



/ 



A RUNAWAY GHIASHA 45 

for fluttering, but is standing straight out, 
leaving the grace and fluttering to be done 
by our fifty-foot pennant. When we paced 
off fifty feet in the Cairo flag bazaar and 
ordered our pennant that length, we felt it 
must often lie upon the deck at our feet; 
but little we knew, for we find it now slightly 
more than half the length of the canvas 
mainsail from whose end it floats, and we 
could have spread ourselves still more by 
ordering it many feet longer. Our plain 
field of blue is more than six feet, and from 
that floats away a red and white streamer. 
We had n't time for deciding upon a device 
for that blue field, but we have the comfort 
of having more stars in the evening sky than 
could have been crowded upon any flag. For 
leaving poetry, romance, and exaggeration 
aside, we have never seen such stars as in 
these heavens above Nubia. Constellation 
after constellation, the names of which we 
do not even know, send forth so much light 
that the evenings are as glorious in their way 
as the Nubian sun is by day. 

It is so early in the winter that we may 
not see the Southern Cross for some days to 
come, and then only at the horizon for a few 



46 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

minutes after sunset. Later in the winter 
even Philse is crowned with its beauty^ and 
in the spring those who linger in Luxor have 
it at the best. 

We have never decided upon a name for 
our boat. Though she has belonged to sev- 
eral owners and made many voyages on plea- 
sure or business, with Europeans and with 
natives, she still belongs to the no-name se- 
ries. When we made that twenty-five mile 
run the first day south of Philse, we were 
for painting upon her bows " The Hare." 
Howadji was to be the house-painter and Sitt 
the designer of the lettering, but the runs — 
or walks — of the last two days have been in 
such dire contrast to the first that we feel as 
if she should be called " The Tortoise ; " up 
here, however, a tortoise would be sure to be 
taken for a scarab or beetle, and that would 
put us under the head of " antiquas." 

We who have been first all day long are 
now last, but there are to us many things more 
important than winning, for towards four 
o'clock the sky becomes a wondrous blue, and 
as the sun sinks — for it now sets at 5.30 — 
the sky pales, and the tints upon hillside 
and rock become more brilliant until the en- 
tire landscape is nothing short of golden. 



CHAPTER VI 

TRACKING 

It appears to have been telegraphed up 
river by word of mouth that we are engineers ; 
for such we were announced to be in contradis- 
tinction to travelers and tourists. We have, 
day by day, proofs of how wise this course 
was, for no one disturbs us, no one expects 
anything of us, and we have to all intents 
and purposes the whole country to ourselves. 

This morning we landed at Dendur. 
Though the sun was high and it was past 
seven o'clock, the natives still lay asleep on 
numbers of benches which were in the shade 
of a big tree near a large mosque. Each man 
was wrapped in an immense cotton quilt, and 
scarcely opened an eye to see us pass. We 
had no way of knowing whether they were 
the grandees of the village, or were natives 
sleeping at the expense of the municipality, 
but the sight was none the less unusual. 

Yes, they seemed to know that there was 



48 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

nothing to be made out of us, and so did not 
bestir themselves. It is often strange how 
information is passed up or down this river 
Nile. Like all who know not how to read or 
write, these Egyptians have wonderful memo- 
ries ; no detail apparently escapes their notice 
and their memories. 

A few years ago it was learned up the 
river that a certain man farther down was 
forwarding arms and ammunition to the Der- 
vishes. A war-office steamer was dispatched 
to apprehend him. But the news flew faster 
than any steamer, and when the boat neared 
the bank, the culprit stood awaiting the offi- 
cers. He had in some way been informed 
that all had been discovered, and may have 
hoped for leniency from giving himself up. 
The pursuing authorities had not dared to 
telegraph, for fear the news would get about, 
but with all their precaution, it had flown 
fast. What were the details of the trial 
and committal ? We never heard, but once 
when coming up river we were on the boat 
which was bringing this culprit — then a 
pardoned prisoner — back to his native vil- 
lage ; and we furthermore recollect that we 
did not sleep all night because of the noisy 



TRACKING 49 

rejoicing of his friends and relatives on again 
seeing their townsman after a term of years 
in gaol. The Khedive had in truth pardoned 
him and released him when but half of his 
ten years' sentence had been served. 

In this connection can also be cited the 
case of an American doctor on his way up 
Nile in a dahabeah, who, when but a few 
days started on his journey, examined and 
prescribed for a poor fellow suffering with 
an affection of the eyes ; from that time on, 
all the way up river, the halt, maimed, and 
even the blind gathered on the bank to ask 
for the hayakim who was on board. 

Our big saloon serves as dining-saloon, 
gentlemen's smoking-saloon, a ladies' sitting- 
room, library, and writing-room. When we 
sit in the middle it is for meals ; when we 
sit in one corner we can easily reach all the 
volumes in our thirty-volume library ; when 
we sit in another corner we are geologists, 
handling and marking strange bits of stone, 
and specimens of potsherds. When we go 
to one end of the saloon we are in our 
armory, with its one revolver and two guns 
to hand; while still another corner is the 
hat and cloak department and wrap centre, 



50 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

in whicli there is quite a varied selection. 
Another corner is reserved for a bottle of 
good Kentucky whiskey and some eau ga- 
zeuse. Another side looks as if the aim of 
our voyage was to collect botanical specimens, 
for here we have henna-berries, castor-oil 
beans, small green gourds, the vegetable 
ivory of the dom palm, and a branch of 
door ha, which looks just like the wand which 
Bacchus had often in hand. 

We have been tracking all day, and 
against a head wind, and have surely by this 
time made three miles, — as well as a dis- 
covery that we have been again swindled by 
that now faraway owner of the houseboat. 
Our contract called for ten able-bodied men, 
and now that the occasion arises when we 
need all ten, we find that we are two and a 
half men short. The other half of the man 
we left behind is the little cook, who in real- 
ity is wonderful in his line, but would count 
for nought on the end of our line tracking 
longshore. Another man is a broken-ankled, 
bandy-legged, one-sided, short-sighted, thin, 
broken down old fellow of sixty — and when 
a Nubian is sixty, he looks two hundred. 
The sailors have put this specimen of human- 



TRACKING 61 

ity at the forward end of our tow-line ; he 
who is pace-setter and head-tracker is hardly 
able to stagger along fast enough to keep the 
rope between him and the next in line taut. 
We suppose their idea is that when in the 
fore he will at least have to carry the rope, 
while if he were in the midst, they would 
have to drag him along as well as his end 
of rope. We see a distinct likeness between 
him and the reis ; although the captain will 
not own him as a relative, we feel sure that 
the old man is his great-great-grandfather, 
or some first cousin's uncle's brother once 
removed. We are only sorry that he was 
not removed farther still before we started 
with such a fifth wheel. 

Where have our eyes and wits been not 
to have sooner discovered that the men are 
short in number and weak in capacity ? The 
Howadji was busy with ideas of sketching 
and painting, was 'way up in that painter's 
paradise where it was impossible to descend 
to the point of examining each sailor as if he 
were conscripting them for an army ; and Sitt 
has been busy with the Arab language and 
the culinary art as understood and capable of 
explanation in Arabic. Perhaps it was the 



52 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

wind's fault that we did not sooner discover 
the boat-owner's treachery, for it blew so lus- 
tily for the first thirty miles from Shellal that 
it seemed to promise to do all the work ; but 
now that we are at a sharp turn in the river 
and a corner is to be got round with wind 
dead ahead, this weakness of the crew is no 
joke. 

The little cook leaves his griddle-cakes in 
favor of the rudder, while the reis, whose 
place is at the helm, is at the bow of the 
boat, and with a pole keeps its nose from 
going into the rocks ; for when pulled by a 
rope 'longshore, with the current running 
swiftly round a corner, it is more than can 
be expected of the best houseboat to keep 
from running towards shore each five min- 
utes of the way. 

Who is the ancient historian who says, 
'' The wind always blows from the north, 
carrying us upstream with sails filled " ? 
History is not repeating itself on this occa- 
sion, for we have not had a north wind for 
days, and never knew how strong or steady 
it can be until we began weeks later our 
downward voyage of floating against a 
steady blow day after day. 




■A. 




^1 It 



K 



TRACKING 63 

There is but one difficulty about our 
amusing ourselves with our shot-guns, and 
that is that we have seen scarcely anything 
to shoot. One beautiful kingfisher, which 
it would have been a pity to molest, and a 
little black irma have been the only flying 
things we have sighted. The irma reminded 
us of a Cairo donkey-boy, for he was black 
all over, with the exception of a white top- 
knot which suggested a cotton skull-cap. 
He, in his innocence, went so far as to hop 
along a gun-barrel and look down the muz- 
zle, — innocent young thing to play with 
fire ; this time he did n't get hurt, but some 
time he may. 

There seems to be a lamb in distress some- 
where on shore ; though invisible he can be 
distinctly heard, as we move along at a rate 
of about a mile an hour. No wonder we 
cannot see him, for when AUi is called, he 
tells us that the lamb is in our own hold ; that 
he was bought last night by the crew, who 
are to fatten him on the voyage and kill him 
at Wady-Halfa. How old will he be before 
we reach that haven, going at the rate of one 
mile an hour ? and which of the stores in our 
storeroom will be considered most desirable 
for fattening him ? 



54 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

The little cook has a bright face and ac- 
tive body, has very white teeth which match 
the white of his cotton skull-cap, has a silver 
ring in the top of his ear; and he proves 
to be the son of the reis. In the evening, 
among the men, while Awassa plays the 
tom-tom, his is always the loudest voice, and 
he is ahead of rather than behind the mea- 
sure. He sews at odd intervals during the 
day; the inside of his cotton skull-cap serves 
for work-basket, for from its inside binding 
he brings needles and cotton. He does as 
much work in one day as our six-foot cook 
— who wears a fine cashmere shawl bound 
about his head as a turban, and whose cer- 
tificate avows him to be of good family, and 
as " honest as they go " — does in four. 

Such different menus from the two kitch- 
ens ! From ours, which is far forward and 
has a brick oven and places for four sepa- 
rate fires, we have had at different times 
very good chops, bacon and eggs, chicken, 
bread pudding, macaroni and onions — not 
a la creme, but a la condensed milk — bien 
entendu. From the native's kitchen we have 
seen durra bread, hard-boiled eggs, beans, 
coffee, — which from its odor was some of 



TRACKING 65 

our Java and Mocha mixture, — and sev- 
eral strano-e combinations whose derivation 
defies description. 

The wind has come, the trackers tumble 
aboardj kuz goes back to his griddle-cakes, 
and the reis squats silently beside the tiller, 
while we slip along for a few miles. The 
tired men are not half rested when the wind 
again proves faithless, and we tie up at Gerf 
Husen, where we have a village and a tem- 
ple to amuse us, but where the heat is some- 
thing appalling. The inside of the temple 
is simply impossible. Whether it is the lack 
of wind, or some special quality in the atmos- 
phere, this remains in our log as the hottest 
afternoon we have so far had in Nubia. 

The women and children, and in fact the 
whole village, turn out to see us. The 
hyakim left his experiments in chemistry, 
or whatever else it is that Nubian doctors 
affect, to have a look at us, and questions 
AUi as to our derivation and destination. 
The women even offer to sell us their nose- 
rings ; and as to their tin rings and brace- 
lets, they appear to wish to present us with 
them. The children are in a state of nature, 
or clad in little hip fringes. The women 



56 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

are good-looking, and no longer wear the 
almost universal black outer garment, but 
instead khaki-colored cotton gowns — and 
not a little smirched with dust. There seems 
to be a difference between this and many- 
others of the hamlets, but wherein the differ- 
ence lies we cannot tell. They follow us to 
the boat's side ; and they must think that 
though we cannot boast so venerable and 
important a hyakim as they, we have some 
power of magic on board, for as we reach 
our gangplank a real wind springs up, and 
in a few moments we are sailing more gayly 
than for many hours past. 

There are as many as twenty sails follow- 
ing in our wake : barges laden with coal for 
Wady-Halfa, and many with house-frames, 
presumably for the new city of Khartoum. 

The sailors exchange greetings and news 
with the crews of all the up-going and down- 
coming craft, with all those aboard the ferry 
boats which cross the river at various points. 
It seems as if the decrepit little ferry boats 
were sailed across just at a moment when 
we can be spoken and questioned; and we 
notice that all along this stretch of the river 
the greeting, when ashore, is a hand-shake, 



TRACKING 57 

— similar to a good English hand-shake^ — 
and quite unlike the various native manners 
of salutation. 

A stern-wheel steamer, towing two army 
supply boats lashed to her sides, comes into 
sight, but the wind is so steady that for two 
hours it fills our sail to such good purpose 
that she gains little on us ; but with the sun 
down goes the wind, and the Egyptian tug- 
boat pushes on, while we are left to tie up at 
Dakkeh. As she passes, we watch her men 
haul down the Egyptian star and crescent, 
then turn away to the other side of our boat 
to see just above us in the sky the most 
wonderful new moon with a star exactly in 
the centre ; such a silver thread of a moon 
and such a brilliant diamond of a star that we 
no longer wonder at its being the national 
emblem of Egypt. We seem to be living 
through one 

" of those sweet nights 
When Isis, the pure star of lovers, lights 
Her bridal crescent o'er the holy stream." 

The ghiashas have the start this morning, 
and Howadji hurries up the leisurely old 
reis, who avers as an excuse that he thought 
we wished to visit the temples, but we ex- 



58 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

claim, '^ Mafeesh temples/' and after setting 
the wheels of the houseboat machinery going, 
Howadji retires for a late morning nap, 
promising himself a sketch of the man at the 
helm later in the day. Thus we are blown 
away from Dakkeh to read up about its tem- 
ples, and to digest the history of the great 
Roman victory over Candace and her Ethi- 
opian subjects, which took place at this spot. 
We are surely becoming demoralized thus to 
skip a battlefield and a temple ; but sketches 
and everything else give way when there is 
a fair wind. 

We must keep on deck all day to show 
outwardly and constantly our determination 
to get to Abou Simbel as soon as possible. 
Even the sketch of the Arab at the tiller 
in such a stunning pose must be given up, 
for in keeping the pose we might run on a 
sand-bank, and be longer still in making that 
temple of the god of the harvest. It is not 
necessary to watch the thermometer to know 
that the mercury is falling rapidly ; our 
friends in the north must be stuffing " dead 
Caesar" or anything else into the cracks of 
doors and windows, for here, thousands of 
miles to the south, the mercury has fallen 
from 80° to 48°. 



TRACKING 59 

Miss Edwards, in her never-to-be-surpassed 
guide, speaks of the volcanic appearance of 
this stretch from Dakkeh to Korosko ; we 
find no explanation in later articles, books, 
or guides, of this strange formation. No 
one even hazards a guess. 

One hill to which we are coming very rap- 
idly has the exact appearance of an extinct 
volcano ; even the crater is perfectly formed. 
Baedeker says nothing more than that it is 
" a dark mountain." 

" Maharrakah," the reis tells us. 

" What does Maharrakah mean ? " 

"Not Arabic, think something Barbar," 
says AUi. 

We then ask the cook, who for want of a 
proper word goes to the kitchen and brings 
out a piece of over-toasted bread. We see 
he is trying to give the word "scorched," 
and in future Sitt will always think of Ma- 
harrakah as " an over-toasted mountain." 

We are sailing better and better as the 
day goes on, and shall certainly make a good 
run, unless we upset, which would seem the 
inevitable thing to happen to a boat that has 
neither keel nor centreboard. We do not 
spread as great a canvas as the Shamrock, to 



60 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

be sure^ but then again we draw but about 
two feet of water. There are no squalls, and 
we always sail right before the wind — when 
there is a wind; and perhaps that has 
something to do with this question, which 
will always be a mystery. Yesterday, when 
becalmed and tracking, it would have been 
hard to reahze the exhilaration of such a run 
as we have made to-day. 

Sitt has been to market with the cook, — 
the somewhat Hmited but easily got at mar- 
ket in the storeroom, — and announces that 
the menu for luncheon is ham and eggs, 
mashed potatoes, and fried polenta, with real 
American molasses. For dinner, a beef 
tongue, macaroni and peas, pancakes, with 
brown sugar and rum for trimmings. She 
also declares that after trying for four days 
to find an exact simile for this golden Lib- 
yan desert sand, she finds it in her pantry : 
it is the exact color of Indian corn. The 
rocks which shine out between these beds 
and golden stretches of sand are all the 
richest shades of purple, not black, as is so 
often said in travelers' guides, and the dis- 
tances take on at all times of day the violet 
tone which can be seen in lower Egypt only 



TRACKING 61 

towards sunrise and sunset. But so far as 
comparison will go, there is yet no point 
where the hill ranges have the same beauty 
and character as the famous hill range back 
of old Thebes. 

The Nubian husbandman's daily struggle 
with this Libyan sand is pathetic ; day by 
day it sweeps down. It cannot at any one 
time be diked out like the water from the 
Pays Bas, and the work can never be counted 
as finished; it is as overwhelming as the 
struggle with any other one of great Na- 
ture's forces. 

The shores to the right are covered some- 
times to the very water's edge with these 
drifts of golden sand ; such sweeps, such un- 
broken avalanches, such constant sources of 
delight to the traveler, who scarcely notices 
the pathetic little crops continually destroyed 
and overblown from the limitless supply up 
yonder. 

And here our sailors are yelling and howl- 
ing — for no other words describe the sounds 
— and struggling to get the boat around a 
bend in the river where the wind is dead 
ahead. They work with a will, for once round 
this point, there is a straightaway run of ten 
miles to Korosko. 



62 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

The day has been unusual, for the sun has 
been covered with huge wind clouds, in this 
region where it is generally hard to find a 
cloud as big as a man's hand. We have been 
racing all day with those ghiashas which 
got half an hour's start of us this morn- 
ing. Our crew are really like live sports to- 
day, and instead of murmuring "maleesh" 
like Orientals, they show all the energy of 
men of the West in making up the mile or 
so which still divides the flotilla of boats 
from our houseboat, which, by the way, is 
still nameless. 

The crew have killed and eaten their lamb ; 
not a vestige of it is left save the fleece, which 
is tacked to our mainmast. 

No matter how hard they track and pole 
during the day, they have breath and energy 
for their weird evening songs, and kuz — 
little brown jug — is as good as any at a 
solo ; though he has worked steadily since 
dawn, has cooked three meals for eight men, 
and washed the big bowl over the deck's side 
after each meal — the bowl which constitutes 
the dishes for eight. 

We have noticed in the last two or three 
days a great renewal of religious fervor on 



TRACKING 63 

the part of the crew. For truth to tell, we 
were much surprised that they prayed so 
little ; now there are often as many as three 
of them going through different genuflec- 
tions at the same time, and yesterday one 
went so far as to leave the towing-line to 
drop on his knees. After prostrating him- 
self many times he jumped up, ran after the 
trackers, and again took his place in line. 

We are sailing fast into the sunset, and 
overhauling those ghiashas, when there comes 
a dreadful grating sound, and we are run on 
a sand-bank. Sooner than it can be told, two 
of the men are over the side carrying the an- 
chor ; there they push and pull. Even Alii 
and our six-foot cook lend a hand, while 
Howadji swears, which helps the situation 
so far as he is concerned ; but when we are 
again afloat, the ghiashas have disappeared 
into the darkness, for the rising moon is ob- 
scured by heavy dark clouds, portending in 
any other country a storm. 

There is still enough light to sail by, and 
an hour later we see lights along the shore, 
and here are the ghiashas tied up in a row. 
We have caught up to them at last. Though 
the wind is still good, the reis cannot be in- 



64 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

duced to sail f arther^ and we too are soon tied 
up at that same bank. 

Howadji has had the same experience when 
going over the Spanish Pyrenees on horse- 
back ; the guides would never push on ahead 
of the others of the party, and no induce- 
ment of tobacco or backsheesh would persuade 
them. The pack-mules and pack-horses all 
went on at once and all stopped at once, and 
apparently, be it the Pyrenees or be it Nubia, 
man likes to travel in company with others 
of his kind. 



CHAPTER VII 

MUTINY AT KOROSKO 

We have been watching for the down post- 
boat, intending to board her in spite of hav- 
ing been warned that, owing to her speed 
when going with the current, it would be diffi- 
cult to do so, for our Christmas mail must 
get on its way as soon as possible. While at 
dinner the crew sights her, and the felucca 
is soon manned, with Alii, as coxswain, car- 
rying a lot of letters and Christmas cards, 
stamped, and tied into neat packages. He 
feels his importance, and salutes as the fe- 
lucca pushes off. The post-boat comes surg- 
ing down, her furnace doors wide open for 
coaling, and the glare of her fires shining 
far ahead. Our little boat approaches her 
with lantern swinging high and men shout- 
ing, but she neither whistles nor slackens 
speed, and noisily keeps on her way* There 
is such disdain in the way the back paddle- 
wheel shakes the water off its flanges almost 



66 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

into our poor little felucca, and such disap- 
pointment on the men's faces, and in our 
hearts, for we had calculated to a nicety upon 
catching the London mail, and to lose a 
whole week is more than our equanimity 
can stand. 

The men return, saying it was not the 
post-boat, but AUi says, — 

"Think it bosta;" wisely adding, "when 
you get Korosko you know." 

This incident rather spoils our appetite for 
pancakes with brown sugar and rum sauce, 
and we go early to bed to try to sleep off 
our disappointment. But from one of the 
ghiashas tied up near us come loudly intoned 
prayers. 

A big sheik repeats over and over, and at 
about two minutes' interval, the same words. 
For a few moments he appears to drop to 
sleep, but so soon as Sitt is about to follow 
suit, his invocation again begins. Of what 
wickedness has he been lately guilty to cause 
such ever recurring, often repeated wailings 
and lamentations ? At length it becomes un- 
endurable, and thrusting her head out of the 
cabin window beside her bunk Sitt cries, — 

"Assib! Assib!" (Enough! Enough!) 



MUTINY AT KOKOSKO 67 

and closes the window with a bang. Then 
there is silence. 

All next day the big sheik, wrapped in 
his blanket, sits in the bows of his ghiasha, 
and as his boat follows us, watches our every 
motion attentively, wondering, we suppose, 
what kind of dogs of Christians we are. 

Here we are at Korosko, within ten minutes 
of the hour that the captain, two days ago, 
predicted we should arrive ; he might have 
been running on some set schedule time, for 
our runs and calms seem somehow to have 
been known and reckoned on before. 

Korosko, where Gordon once had his head- 
quarters, and where Conan Doyle laid the 
scene of his little tragedy, is a clean, quiet 
settlement, running along the river bank, as 
do most of the villages, with a few people 
loafing here and there. We confide our pack- 
ages of letters to the accommodating postman, 
who promises to put them aboard the next 
down post-boat.^ One was due last night, he 
declares, and a boat did indeed go by, but 
since it did not stop, it could not have been 
the mail-boat. 

^ Most of these letters, after a voyage of six thousand 
miles, were delivered in America on Christmas day. 



68 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

" All same, think bosta, never you mind/' 
avers Alii in a stage aside. 

Though AUi has been the Howadji's faith- 
ful servant for years, his master has never 
been able exactly to understand what AUi 
means when he says, " Never you mind." 
Tell him that the bread is out, and you fear 
he may have no dinner, he replies, " Never 
you mind." Lose your temper and rate him 
soundly, it is the same, " Never you mind." 

Beyond seeing what is to see, we have in 
mind the purchase of eggs, chicken food, 
bread for the servants, and a china bowl or 
two, and our handsome six-foot cook, with 
his turban of white cashmere, and carrying 
a cane, has come ashore with us in the little 
felucca. But this does not mean that he is 
carrying any bundles or baskets. No, he 
always manages to have a fag, be it one of 
the crew or some boy picked up in a bazaar. 
Now AUi never seems better pleased than 
when making himself useful, and between 
these two there is a race war. AUi, an Arab 
from Cairo, has our interests at stake, speaks 
a different language from these Nubians, can- 
not understand what cabals they are plotting 
against him, and guards our stores much too 



.ilr^ 




"~y- 



ALLI WASHING BREAKFAST DISHES 



MUTINY AT KOROSKO 69 

jealously to be a favorite. They are banded 
together to make his life miserable, but it is 
another instance of " kick me, kick my dog/' 
for they have reckoned without the How- 
adji, to whom Alii is valuable, and who says 
of his master, " One word, same word every 
day." 

We find fresh eggs, chicken food, etc., at 
more than market prices, but allow the trad- 
ers to do us rather than spend a longer time 
in the heat and crowd of the bazaars. There 
is nothing of interest to be bought except a 
pretty little gazelle and a chameleon or two, 
but we cannot put the nose of our hedgehog 
out of joint by adopting new pets ; so we 
soon turn our faces toward the point where 
we had left our houseboat in midstream. 

But from the bank we can nowhere see 
our home. Where can it have stowed itseK, 
thus to be entirely out of sight ? We look 
downstream where the current might have 
carried it ; we look upstream toward points 
we hoped to reach during the afternoon. 
At last, with the aid of sailors' eyes, we dis- 
cover a boat lying in under the bank at 
least two miles to the south and too far off 
to distinguish the flags, which the sailors de- 



70 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

clare to be ours. So we are in for a long 
pull upstream in the midday sun, whose rays 
draw forth all the latent fury of our natures ; 
with mustard plasters all over shoulders and 
arms we could scarce have been more uncom- 
fortable. 

Finally reaching the shelter of home, How- 
adji proceeds to give the reis much impor- 
tant information upon the state of his mind, 
which the Nubian can only infer from voice 
and gesture, for Howadji knows no suitable 
epithets in the reis's tongue, and " damn " in 
every tense and number does not make half 
an impression if one does not understand 
English. Then he gives orders to go on at 
once, crew's dinner or no dinner. 

But the reis does not obey ; no man goes 
to his post ; and we soon discover that his 
sailing away from the village was not an ac- 
cident but a preconcerted plan, and that we 
are in for a mutiny, here beyond the hearing 
of the military authorities of Korosko, for all 
this country above Assouan is under military 
jurisdiction. 

The reis and crew, through AUi, declare 
that they will do no more work, will go no 
farther, until Howadji gives backsheesh. 



MUTINY AT KOROSKO 71 

As Gilbert says in one o£ his inimitable 
operettas, " here 's a howdydoo." 

If we submit to their demands, the rest of 
our voyage, will be uncomfortable and the 
reis will be his own master. So Howadji 
promptly refuses to give backsheesh ; if they 
work well, he will be liberal; but if they 
do not, he will at once fetch the authorities 
from Korosko and have the reis and men 
properly dealt with, — and as a parting shot 
before retiring to the cabin, Sitt declares 
that once back in Assouan she shall see 
Commander Elgood, and the reis's permit 
will be taken aw^ay. 

We close the cabin door, draw down the 
blinds, try to cool off inwardly and out- 
wardly, after the long hot row in the open 
boat, and the row with the reis, and 
wait. . . . 

Sounds of angry voices, those of the reis 
and men, penetrate into our little saloon, and 
higher and above all Alli's voice in argument 
with them. 

On consulting our maps we find we have 
done a little over a hundred miles, and have 
reached the far-famed bend in the river 
where, as the guide-books say, "the north 



72 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

wind which prevails in winter frequently re- 
tards navigation." Why could we not have 
had at this point some of those gentle breezes 
or dead calms which have so thwarted our 
onward progress for the last few days, in- 
stead of the real gale from the north, and 
added to the gale the tempest on the forward 
deck? 

We can find no consolation in Baedeker, 
unless it is in the fact that " in this reach 
travelers have the chance of seeing croco- 
diles, which frequent the sand-banks and lay 
their eggs in the clefts of the shore ; re- 
cently, however, they have been somewhat 
rare." The latter clause is so true that we 
are destined never to see others than the 
stuffed ones placed over the doors of certain 
of the houses to keep off the evil eye. 

The tempest on the forward deck seems 
to have passed over, and instead comes the 
chorus from the crew, " Allah, belli ! Allah, 
belli." 

They are poling and we are moving, and 
with a gentle knock AUi enters the cabin 
door. 

" Tayib — never you mind." 



MUTINY AT KOROSKO 73 

We try to look indifferent, but ask, " How 
did you do it ? " 

His explanation, translated into current 
English, is to the effect that the reis had 
been so astonished at the account brought 
back by the sailors of the number of letters 
mailed that morning that he asked AUi to 
whom Howadji had sent so many. Alii 
knew no more than the reis, but, unwilling 
to acknowledge the fact and wishing to cre- 
ate an impression, replied that they were " to 
the Sirdar, to Wingate Pacha, to Commander 
Elgood, to Major Watson, to Crookshank 
Pacha, to General Lane. I remember," 
said he, " all the great gentlemen's names in 
Cairo, and tell reis, and he much afraid. 
Reis want to know why I no tell him How- 
adji one pacha; he know he pacha, talk 
strong like pacha." 

He is a faithful dog, this servant of 
Howadji' s, and when Sitt calls him a dog, 
she means it for the highest commendation : 
he is not only faithful, but is gifted with 
unusual intelligence and no end of discre- 
tion. 



CHAPTER VIII 

GOLDEN SANDS 

When we again come forth from our saloon 
the crew are working lustily, and all signs of 
the late tempest are gone. Some of the men 
are in the water up to their armpits, wading 
forward to plant our funny little anchor, and 
then hauling upon it, taking it up but little 
further than the boat's length for each plant- 
ing. Their shrieking, chanting, and stamp- 
ing of feet must have been heard for miles. 

Kuz never deserts his kitchen during all 
the tramping and hauling, pulling and pol- 
ing, but often lends a helping hand while he 
waits for just the right moment to turn one 
of his wonderful batter-cakes. The sailors 
step around him, in front of him, often right 
over him, but he keeps up the fire, greases 
his griddle from the bottle of oil, mixes his 
dough, and bakes his cakes undisturbed by 
the movements of the others. For this for- 
ward deck of the dahabeah is like a back 



GOLDEN SANDS 75 

yard of a cottage : almost as if a second 
family lived on one's back porch. Either 
the men are working all over its extent, or 
they sit about eating and smoking, or they 
lie fast asleep at full length on its planks, 
and our cook has continually to walk over 
them to ply between his kitchen and our pan- 
try. Here the wood is piled and the big 
chicken coops, with their lively inhabitants, 
which drink all the water given them ever so 
many times each day. 

Miss Edwards mentions that while her da- 
habeah was being got up this terrible little 
stretch from Korosko to Derr, she and the 
others of the party went ashore to pick flow- 
ers, but we cannot leave our houseboat if we 
would, for the felucca, usually a clean httle 
row-boat, is half filled with mud. 

Sitt finds that the noise and confusion re- 
mind her of what her old darkey mammy, 
when she disapproved of what was going on 
in the nursery, used to qualify as '^ scenery." 
The mammy would often return in the midst 
of such disorder that she raised her hands, 
murmuring, '' Such scenery ! such scenery ! " 

Our minds are improving daily, but Sitt 
cannot help feeling that she is getting much 



76 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

experience which she hopes may never have 
to be used again. 

Some thirty chickens sailed with us from 
Shellal ; they could not be called stowaways, 
for they were in their coops forever in sight. 
The first two which were dished up proved 
such failures that the temptation was to open 
the coop doors and allow the others to fly 
away. But the third attempt was a " stewed 
chicken/' which proved a great success with 
Huntley & Palmer's Breakfast Biscuits to 
serve as crust. No chicken-pie could have 
been better ; here was a trouvaille indeed, 
for we had all the chickens needful and ever 
so many boxes of biscuits, and such appe- 
tites after all day in the open air ! 

We are moving along at a scarcely percep- 
tible snail's pace ; a tortoise could make bet- 
ter time than our poor boat, tugged by six 
men on a tow-line. There are points and 
ledges of rocks sticking out into the river, 
and we often think of those two men we 
left behind us, whose places must be some- 
times supplied by even our house servants to 
sheer us off. 

A picturesque old fellow, who looks like 
the pictures of some of the old prophets of 



GOLDEN SANDS 77 

Bible days, follows us along the bank for 
some time before we know that he has fresh 
eggs to sell. He is clad in creamy white, 
and at length from the folds of his robe 
brings out a bag of eggs. It reminds us — 
we don't know why — of the bag from which 
the hero David brought forth the smooth 
stone with which he was to slay the giant 
Goliath. The old man sells us a dozen eggs 
for two piastres, and then follows us for 
backsheesh. We wonder where the back- 
sheesh pourboire idea first started, for it 
seems to be deeply rooted in the minds of 
certain countrymen while quite unknown to 
others. The old man is quite philosophic 
over our refusal to pay him more than we 
bargained for, and has no sooner gone on 
his way than a youth runs after us carrying 
a white hen, evidently the layer of all those 
fresh eggs ; but we have chickens galore, who 
threaten to eat us out of house and home 
before we can eat them. Next in the pro- 
cession comes an old hag, who scolds us 
because our trackers have walked over some 
of her bean plants. She pipes at us in a 
high treble voice, panting with the exertion 
of getting over ground even at our snaiFs 



78 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

pace. We feel responsible, and lest she 
should lose one pod of beans from our hav- 
ing passed that way, roll up a small coin and 
throw it to her on the bank. The poor old 
thing is so blind that she cannot even find 
the white-wrapped coin, so one of our sailors 
runs back to find it for her. She thanks 
him in her odd jargon, but when, on open- 
ing the package, she sees a nickel instead of 
the small bronze tenth-of-a-cent coin she ex- 
pected, she calls after us several times, " God 
give you happiness." 

The north wind is so steady that it is cold 
even in the sun, the banks look chilly, and 
the loneliness is extreme ; the thermometer in 
the early morning is down to 40°, and the 
courage required for one's early tubbing is 
as great as in a New England snowstorm. 

A line of little children squat along the 
highest ridge of the bank, some thirty feet 
above the water line ; one of them ventures 
too near the bank's edge, and has all she can 
do to scramble back; down through the 
break which she made in the crust the golden 
sand begins to pour ; it runs, runs, runs down 
the side like a little mountain waterfall, and 
is still running when we pass out of sight. 



GOLDEN SANDS 79 

The poet of the dear old hymn must have 
been inspired in Nubia to have written, — 

" Where Afric's sunny fountains 
Roll down their golden sand." 

Here is a chance to make many golden 
guineas each season ; they are sure to come 
to the man who manufactures small hour- 
glasses of this golden sand, which the hun- 
dreds of excursionists who annually pass 
along would take to their homes in every 
quarter of the globe. The idea is not pa- 
tented, and for our quota of profit we shall 
accept samples sent care of Alii Hassan. 

All day the lovely little temple of Amada 
has been in view ; and late in the afternoon 
we follow the jackal tracks through the sand 
— for he seems to know the way — and come 
to the confines of this little ruin. After 
an hour's walk, in which we see no living 
human being, not even a beggar, we reach a 
deserted saqquia and dead palm-tree. Some 
one has tried, has struggled, to bring this 
spot under cultivation, but the sand is too 
obdurate, too relentless and implacable, to 
admit a conqueror's heel, and has won the 
hard-fought fight. 

On the temple walls there is still some 



80 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

color to be seen, and the sand-drifts admit of 
our stepping up on the roof. Here among 
the various names cut in the rock are those 
of Arabs and Greeks, and, most " up to date,'* 
those of some of the Seventy-ninth High- 
landers, cut but a few months ago, a record 
of the last conquerors of this land. High 
up in the rock is cut the name of Herodotus, 
and under it "a lie." Whether it is or not, 
no one now shall ever know ; it is very easy 
to give the lie, however, and some one may 
perhaps come along some day and cut '' a lie " 
under the names of the Seventy-ninth Scotch- 
men ; and which of us will be here to vouch 
for the truth of the cutting ? 

Several pages descriptive of this temple 
can be quoted from Baedeker, but they de- 
scribe many things now reburied beneath the 
sand, and the Egyptian Society keeps no 
guardian to demand tickets at the gate, for 
even the gates are all covered. Shepherds 
and their flocks have sought shelter here, 
and lighted fires, and then passed on their 
way. Camels' feet and goats' feet have left 
their impression, but where are they all now ? 
No human, no animal, no sound ; the quaint 
little ruin is left deserted. Now that the 



GOLDEN SANDS 81 

Khalifa is no more, perhaps the waste lands 
in Nubia may some day again be inhabited. 

There is one Httle track which we follow 
for many yards, — that of a little animal 
with one weak leg and a long tail, which 
proves to be a kangaroo mouse. We find 
him in the midst of a little circle round 
which he turned in his death agony. Some- 
thing had bitten that left hind leg, and he 
had died of his wound. Shaped like a minia- 
ture kangaroo, he has two very long hind 
legs, two very short front ones, a soft gray 
fur, and long, pointed head ; he has a long 
tail, feathered at the end. Though in the 
coming weeks we often see the tracks of 
these beautiful little animals, we never see 
one alive. 

The short winter afternoon is at an end, 
and we fairly slide down the golden sand to 
our boat, glad to find dinner ready, and our 
Rochester lamp shedding its light and its 
grateful heat in the saloon, — for which 
America be thanked. 



CHAPTER IX 

A CAKAVAN 

Quiet reigns this cool evening, for the 
crew, tired out with tracking, calHng, and 
beating of feet, have stretched themselves in 
the shallow hold under the forward deck. 
Before 7 p. m. they are so fast asleep that 
they cannot be even dreaming of all the 
hours of work they have done to-day. In- 
stead of sitting about and playing on the 
tom-tom, almost too sleepy to eat their din- 
ners, all, from Reis Mohammed to little kuz 
of twelve years, have curled up in the vari- 
ous scant coverings, from which not even an 
ear or an eye protrudes. We are ourselves 
tired out with even the sight of so much 
struggling and scuffling, and the hedgehog 
is the only living thing aboard whose energy 
bids fair to continue into the night. As the 
sun sinks each evening he seems to waken 
gradually, and scratches all night in the box, 
from which we do not dare to let hira out, 



A CARAVAN 83 

lest the morning find him many miles on his 
way to Assouan. 

We have at last decided upon a name for 
our home. We call it the " Terrapin/' from 
its love of getting on sand-banks and its am- 
phibious character. Sitt tries to explain the 
name to AUi, who says " Scarab," and scruti- 
nizes the hasty sketch of a real diamond back, 
finally saying, " They have them at Alexan- 
dria, but not up here." But we still hold 
to the name, for none other can be so appro- 
priate, and had there been a sign-painter 
within reach, we would by this time certainly 
have called upon him to paint " Terrapin " 
on our bows. 

Now that the few weary miles to Derr are 
accomplished and the fight with the north 
wind is over, we remember that we are here 
just at the time Reis Mohammed predicted. 
The three days' struggle is ended, and the 
canny old Oriental looks as if he never had 
hurried and never would hurry. 

These Nubians are far from lazy ; they are 
excellent workers, but, like all black labor, 
require the brain of a white man to superin- 
tend, direct, and supervise. Ofttimes a gang 
of workmen who refuse to be led by one of 



84 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

their own color work well under a low type 
of Greek or Arab. 

Joy comes with the morning. The crew 
have slept a long sleep, have quite forgotten 
the galley-slave labor of the last three days, 
and sit around one of the men, who seems, to 
judge from the roars of laughter from his 
audience, to be telling a funny story. A few 
moments later they are all singing choruses 
to the energetic beating of their drums, — 
such energetic beating and such energetic 
singing ! 

Beyond Derr the effect of wide-spreading 
palms and castor-oil bushes suggests the trop- 
ics. Dozens of saqquias line the banks, and 
the region would be described as one of the 
most fertile tracts on the Upper Nile. The 
droning of these many water-wheels reminds 
Howadji of the choruses at the suppers of 
the " Latin Quarter Club " in his student 
days, for the saqquias, like the students, 
almost succeed in singing in tune. May the 
north wind which has battled with us for 
days now befriend us, for to tie up near this 
array of ungreased machinery would be more 
than nerves can stand, aside from the fact 
that Christmas is coming, and we cannot put 



A CARAVAN 85 

back the calendar, even i£ it has taken us 
three days to go twelve miles. 

We had other plans for Christmas, but we 
are still within sight of Derr, with never a 
whiff to carry us on. There is not a ripple 
on the face of old Nile, and the thermometer, 
which registered but 42° this morning, is now 
up to 90°. The ghiashas which have been 
our companions for several days lie against 
the bank, their big sails hanging as limp as 
so many half-filled balloons. We hear some 
murmurings of life far away on the bank — 
the bark of a dog, the voices of some chil- 
dren at play, but never the crying of a child. 
Sitt would like so much to know how these 
Nubian mothers prevent this almost hourly 
occurrence in civilized nurseries, for Howadji 
has noted that he has never seen an Egyptian 
mother kiss her child, and that all parental 
affection seems to be exhausted in chastising 
them. Everything in Nubia is different, — 
even AUi witnesses to surprising things. 
"Donkeys no shoes here, like people," he 
avers. 

There is a surprising sentence in Baedek- 
er's worth quoting, viz. : " Crocodiles now 
become more numerous, looking from a dis- 



86 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

tance like tree-trunks or like huge frogs." 
Had we come to see crocodiles, we should 
indeed be disappointed, for in spite of Bae- 
deker, there is no trace of these old river 
gods. 

As the calm threatens to continue the rest 
of the winter, we leave home to see a Roman 
ruin, with arches and towers of sun-dried 
brick and finely quarried foundations of red 
sandstone. There are many broken mortars 
for grinding corn, and stone troughs for 
bread-making, within the many chambers of 
this Roman castle. They are too broken and 
bulky to warrant carrying them away, espe- 
cially since the sailors are far more interested 
in some recent jackal tracks, and are with 
sticks searching under each stone and around 
each arch. 

A caravan of a dozen camels under the 
charge of several men mounted on donkeys 
passes slowly along ; a guard marches ahead 
on foot armed with a yard-long dervish sword, 
while behind comes a mounted guard armed 
with a gun, in the muzzle of which is stuck 
a colored rag. They pass close to us, but 
never look to the right or left, do not even 
pass the time of day or give us a blessing. 



A CARAVAN 87 

which is more to the point than the time o£ 
day in a country where time is reckoned in 
dynasties. It is such a picturesque proces- 
sion that the temptation is to hold them up 
long enough to make a sketch, for with them 
and with our crew armed with sticks and 
staves, the picture would indeed have Orien- 
tal flavor. These are the things that will 
pass away forever with the Cape to Cairo 
Railroad ; no camels, no guards, no dervishes, 
but iron monsters driving ahead. Time will 
be gained, but how many other things lost ! 

The Roman ruin we had been exploring 
has its twin sister on the opposite bank of 
the river. Perhaps both were one day joined 
by a great chain of forged links, guarded by 
sentries armed with spears and lances, and 
having the determination of Roman conquer- 
ors. The Roman castle, with its ruined and 
crumbling arches and square tower, if over- 
grown with the loving and clinging English 
ivy, would look like the remains of a Gothic 
chapel, but without that tracery it resembles 
a factory which had perhaps burned before 
the fire department of the district could get 
to the scene. There is no mention in the 
guide-books of these points. Even the history 



88 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

is forgotten ; in eighteen hundred years there 
are some facts which escape the notice of the 
best informed historian. 

We think of many things we would like 
to have explored when we are again on our 
houseboat. 

The reis profits by the calm to give us a 
lecture on the subject of a ghiasha which has 
gone on a sand-bank near by, where it will 
remain until the next year's high Nile. The 
poor ghiasha will serve until then as a light- 
house, or bell buoy, to warn others from a 
like fate. The reis continues his moral tale 
with the history of a dahabeah, which near 
here ran upon a hidden bank, and could not 
be floated until all the household furniture 
and stores had been carried, load by load, to 
shore, the heavy rigging got away, and the 
craft stripped of all her beauty and elegance, 
when she was dragged off by the help of a 
stern-wheeler. 

He has also heard from an upcoming boat 
that the river is so low at Assouan that the 
excursion boats are already sticking in the 
mud ; if such be the history of the early part 
of December, what will be the report in Jan- 
uary and February? We don't know what 



A CARAVAN 89 

he is hinting at, nor do we see the moral of 
his tales, unless it be that everything that he 
can tell us of an unfortunate nature which 
has happened to his fellow reises must nat- 
urally redound to his own glorification , and 
make us judge leniently of him when he in 
his turn goes on another bank. In case we 
make shipwreck, there is a path all along the 
Nile banks, but it would be weary indeed to 
walk, or even ride, in the deep sand and hot 
sun. 

The air is so dry that we no longer wonder 
at the natives, whose hair is all smoothed 
down and saturated with castor oil. Our lips 
are as chapped as in a January snowstorm. 
As to combing one's hair, it is impossible. 
The more one combs and brushes, the greater 
the apparent disorder. The heads of the 
little natives fairly glisten with castor oil. 
One of them, who fell head foremost into a 
sand-drift, came up golden-haired. 

We have made a little headway, but dis- 
cover that all but two of the crew have gone 
fishing, in fact we can, with the aid of a glass, 
see them about a mile ahead. They are or- 
dered back by the reis, who has not much 
of a voice, but in this stillness can readily 



90 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

make himself heard. They expected us to 
catch up with them, but the Terrapin has 
instead calmly awaited their return, tied to 
the bank for fear we might float down- 
stream with the current. 

We awake next morning to find ourselves 
still under a gold and green bank, near a 
long line of saqquias, which are fortunately 
out of use, and look in every direction for 
any sign of wind, — not a ripple save those 
made by the water fretting over some very 
shallow points in the river-bed. The men 
track for several hours, until we see the bold 
outline of Kasrn Ibrim far ahead in the dis- 
tance. We have for several days been inter- 
esting ourselves in this ruined fortress, and 
long for a wind to carry us on. We whistle, 
we stick needles into the mast, and do every- 
thing that legend says is sure to bring the 
winds of heaven, but are to all appearances 
to have a lesson in patience. Sitt has some 
Eenaissance lace-work to occupy her spare 
moments, and the needle fairly flies in and 
out with her suppressed impatience at thus 
dragging along day after day. 

We track on and on until at midday comes 
a gentle breeze, so gentle that the Terrapin 



A CARAVAN 91 

goes on a sand-bank and stays there, just as 
terrapins love to do, basking in the midday 
sun, while the bold, rocky headland of Kasrn 
Ibrim seems just as far away as at six that 
morning. How is it that the watched pot 
never boils, and all comes to those who wait ? 
Ibrim had been waiting there too, these many 
centuries, and is still there when we sail 
gently up to its base at sunset. 

Wonderful rock ! Between two and three 
hundred feet out of the water it rises, quite 
the most stunning natural formation we have 
seen since leaving the valley of the tombs of 
the kings, Biban-el-Muluk. 

We are leaving the scaling of this rock 
until our down voyage, and continue on our 
way as the sun sets. The rocky headland is 
turned to brilliant copper in the glory of the 
afterglow ; each irregularity in the rock's 
face, each overhanging ruin of wall or for- 
tress catches the Hght ; everything, from the 
turrets at the top to the debris at the foot of 
the crumbling walls, is touched into vivid 
colors. 

Its history, as found in our guide-books, 
is very disconnected ; centuries intervene be- 
tween different recorded events. That the 



92 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Romans were here as long ago as before the 
Christian era is undisputed^ but how many 
other peoples have before, and since, profited 
by its natural fortress of rock to dominate 
over the surrounding fields and fast flowing 
river ? 

Reis Mohammed, very unwillingly, runs 
the boat ashore on a little beach to the south 
of the headland, whence we clamber into 
several interesting rock chambers, or tombs, 
cut in the face of the hill twenty and more 
feet above high-water mark. These are as 
usual decorated with figures of Rameses, 
Horus, Hathor, and others of our intimate 
friends among gods and kings. The values 
between the different points of interest are 
so well kept and clearly given in Miss 
Edwards's guide that we cannot understand 
her omission of Kasrn Ibrim from her list 
of Nubian wonders. Perhaps she did not see 
it from its more beautiful side, or perhaps 
she was sleeping or dining when passing it. 
She fails to note either its wondrous natural 
position or any point in its history. 

To us the Kasrn Ibrim, which is likely 
to have been a fortress even before history 



A CARAVAN 93 

began, would be just the setting for a his- 
torical novel. 

The moon lights us on our way, and in spite 
of all the reis's histories and moral tales of 
dahabeahs and ghiashas which ran upon 
sand-banks because of their too great desire 
to push on, we continue on our way for a 
couple of hours, feeling that this Saturday 
night sees "something begun, something 
accomplished." 



CHAPTER X 

OUR LAST LOAF OF BREAD 

Sunday morning opens as quietly as all 
other mornings, and you have no idea how 
much that means. 

There are no hucksters crying out early 
morning necessities, there are no market 
carts hurrying by to market, there are no 
huntsmen's horns to proclaim " that a south- 
erly wind and a cloudy sky " makes it a fine 
hunting morning, there is no reveille to call 
up the troop in a garrison near by, there are 
no children to be sent off to school, no bells 
to call the heavy-eyed dwellers in a Carmelite 
nunnery to go on their knees, no milk-carts 
hurrying by with clattering milk-cans. No, 
not one of the noises which can generally be 
heard in various corners of the earth can 
be heard here. An alarm clock would be 
ashamed if it heard itself. In two weeks 
there has scarcely been the call of a bird, the 
twitter of a locust, and but once have we 



OUR LAST LOAF OF BREAD 95 

heard a tree-toad. We have seen no snake, 
no scorpion, in this region where we were 
told they abounded. The botany, the orni- 
thology, and geology of this land of Nubia 
could apparently be read through before 
breakfast, though we should like to hear a 
geologist's running commentary upon the 
strange volcanic and tumulus appearance of 
the hills we pass from time to time. 

With Sunday has come a good breeze, mile 
after mile slips easily away, and we almost 
upset the old reis and the houseboat too in 
our sudden determination to stop for a few 
moments for a closer inspection of a strange 
old dahabeah flying a Turkish flag, and for 
a pennant a blue flag with a square white 
figure in the centre of the blue field. 

It looks in the distance like a " blue-peter," 
but is in reality a government salt-boat ; and 
the guard with his gun on his shoulder comes 
to meet us, — to see, we suppose, whether we 
land any salt, — and is surprised to find that 
we are strangers. He, like every one else 
along the stretch of the river, knows our 
boat, which last year was taken by some en- 
gineers, who came up to determine which vil- 
lages would be under water when the great 
new barrage is finished. 



96 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

He doubtless wonders what interest we can 
have in examining at close quarters the un- 
loading of the little packages of salt, for salt, 
being a commodity heavily taxed by the gov- 
ernment, can only be sold by special permis- 
sion and under government inspection. Men, 
women, and children come up and down the 
bank like so many ants, carrying away the 
small blue packages to deposit at their houses. 

It is impossible for us to understand the 
transaction exactly,- — whether the villagers 
are allowed so much, whether a purchase is 
made by each family, or whether each man 
buys according to his needs. We see no 
money exchanged, and the guard keeps a 
sharper lookout on us than he does on the 
natives, seeming to suspect us of something, 
we do not quite know what. 

This is one of the occasions when AUi 
cannot tell us the details of the transaction, 
when his " should " is '' would," and his 
'' d's " and " t's " are mixed past hope of de- 
ciphering. He insists upon calling " salt " 
" sugar," so our ignorance must be laid at 
his door. 

There are so many things about these 
Nubians which are hard to understand. For 



OUR LAST LOAF OF BREAD 97 

instance, they do not like beans, while the 
Arabs in Cairo are continually eating them. 
Every day or two our Nubian cook takes the 
bit in his teeth and disdains beans, Howadji's 
bread, Italian polenta, and other things 
which we find very palatable. When Sitt 
gives out beans from the storeroom, she al- 
most has to sit up with those beans to see 
that no accident happens to them. Some- 
thing unforeseen always occurs : either they 
are accidentally thrown away, or they are not 
soaked, or else they are burnt, or so much 
salted as to be uneatable. To-day there is a 
new accident : the cook falls down the hatch- 
way with the basin of beans, and then comes 
to Sitt to ask her to scold the sailors for leav- 
ing the hatchway open. This she refuses to 
do, and feels like telling him that he has eyes 
as well as the beans; on the contrary, she 
sends him down into the hold to collect the 
basin and the beans. Now the hold is but 
three feet deep, the beans and cook can be 
collected, but the basin has received injury 
which may incapacitate it for further use ; 
but it will at any rate serve for a modern 
testimonial of the fall of man. 

There are plenty of stores in the store- 



98 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

roonij but we are on our last loaf of bread. 
The cook has proved beyond doubt several 
times that he cannot make bread, so we shall 
have no more until we board that up-coming 
post-boat. According to our calculations, 
that boat with bread and mail is due to-night. 
At Toshkeh they told us it would probably 
steam up between eight o'clock and midnight, 
and as we are generally asleep long before 
nine o'clock, we shall have to do sentry duty 
or sleep with one eye open, lest bread and 
mail be carried on, for it is not the post-boat 
which undertakes to find us ; it is left to us 
to sight and board her. 

Sitt cannot decide whether she is most anx- 
ious to see the package of fresh bread or the 
package of letters. If the steamer comes 
along before dark, we may have the chance 
of looking upon the face of a white man ; 
how pale he will look after these weeks 
among the black faces of Nubia ! We are 
almost at the point that the bride reached, of 
which Mr. Punch told, who, when asked by 
her newly made husband if she would like to 
see a friend, replied, " Yes ; a friend, or even 
an enemy." We have reached almost the 
enemy stage. 



OUR LAST LOAF OF BREAD 99 

There is much to interest us all the after- 
noon, for the wind is good, and we are mak- 
ing a real run, though the banks are some- 
what uninteresting in view of what is in store 
for us in the early morning, the Mecca to 
which we have steered for many days. The 
wind stiffens, and we have all we want and 
can stand, but not to the point of reefing 
either sail. 

These Nile houseboats are of queer con- 
struction, with one sail in the extreme boAV 
and the other at the stern ; perhaps Sitt can 
even designate the latter as a spanker. The 
harder the wind blows, the deeper we bury 
our bows, and we only sail when the wind is 
astern ; the system of navigation is still a 
mystery, and though Sitt often gives orders 
about the sailing and stopping, the reis man- 
ages to obey them without capsizing or 
wrecking the boat. Instead of the boat's 
being lightened, it is loaded down with many 
unnecessary things ; coils of rope, chicken 
coops, bags of grain, firewood, and coal, and 
all the kitchen utensils are immediately upon 
the bows. When the men are at leisure, 
there they often cluster. When we have a 
good breeze and the Terrapin ducks her 

L.ofC. 



100 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

head, it is a constant wonder that she 
does n't kick up her heels and plunge head- 
foremost into the river. Perhaps it is be- 
cause she could not get a real plunge, for 
this yellow brown stream, with its eddies and 
whirling currents, which looks so strong and 
mighty for evil, is oftentimes but a few feet 
deep, and even in the middle is sometimes 
no feet at all. Yet it is not well to be too 
trusting, for at Luxor, where the river looks 
even and quiet, the whirlpools are so great 
that have not a carriage and horses been 
known to be engulfed and disappear in a few 
moments ? Those who know the Nile well 
dread to see it at flood tide. Many poor an- 
imals are swept away by the caving in of the 
banks, worn and torn by the rushing waters, 
with even some attendant loss of human 
life. Our boat, however, seems to have no 
fear of this now placid stream, and plunges 
on her way when the wind is fine as majes- 
tically as she sticks on a sand-bank when we 
are becalmed. 

When the sun goes down, Reis Mohammed 
insists upon sailing up to Abou Simbel and 
anchoring there after dark. Persuasions, en- 
treaties, and explanations fail to make the 



OUR LAST LOAF OF BREAD 101 

old fellow understand that after having come 
many hundreds^ even thousands of miles, to 
see this wonderful temple, we cannot allow 
him to go on and tie up at its base when 
there is no glory of sunlight enveloping and 
surrounding it. The moon is bright and the 
wind is strong, to be sure, and the old man 
protests that we should profit by both. He 
little knows what determined Anglo-Saxons 
he has to deal with. He is inflexible until 
Howadji goes upon deck and talks like a 
pacha, with threats and strong language. 
Then he reluctantly lets the boat fall off, 
and come to an anchorage at a suitable place 
about two miles north of the temple, from 
which we can watch for the coming of the 
bread and the mail, and send the felucca to 
gather in our supplies from the fast-going 
government boat. 

Reis Mohammed points to a line of cliffs 
which can be easily ^discerned in the moon- 
light, and again begs to be allowed to pro- 
ceed. But we are obdurate. Sitt supposes 
that the old fellow realizes that the wind 
may blow itself out before morning, and 
that the two miles may have to be tracked. 
He cannot understand our feelings ; it is 



102 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

incomprehensible to him that having been so 
anxious to get on as fast as possible^ even 
to sail at night rather than lose time, we 
should now want to stop and let the spank- 
ing breeze go on without us. We are not 
to be deprived by him of our long-looked-f or, 
much-talked-of approach to the rock wonder, 
with the spectacle of the rising sun gilding 
first one point, then another. 

We tie up to-night in the Soudan, for some 
time after dark we slip by the signboard 
which we are told by the reis bears the word 
"Soudan." He promised to show it to us, 
but the excitement of the spanking breeze 
has caused him to forget, and we pass this 
boundary between Nubia and the Soudan just 
as we passed, some days since, the Tropic of 
Cancer. 



CHAPTER XI 

ABOU SIMBEL 

The mail-boat^ with all its pounds of 
steam pressure, with all the revolutions of 
its stern wheel, and all its puffing and blow- 
ing, is not so well up to her schedule time 
as our houseboat, which depends solely upon 
the wind, which blows or blows not, as it 
likes, from the Libyan desert. We expected 
to see the steamer at sunset, felt confident 
we should sight her by eight in the evening, 
would have sworn she could not be so late 
as midnight ; but not until four in the 
morning do we hear the pulsing of her en- 
gines, and only then by putting our heads 
on our pillows, which serve in some way to 
bring us in direct communication with the 
water, the planks of the boat, and so on ; 
when we open the cabin windows and stick 
forth our heads into the cold night, all sound 
is lost. We do so long for those letters, we 
so need that bread, that when, at the end of 



104 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

an hour, the throbs are still no clearer, we 
feel that we may have imagined them ; that 
our wishes, perhaps, have been father to 
these sounds. Yet no sooner do we try to 
settle to sleep, and Sitt's ear is again on the 
pillow, than she distinctly hears that machin- 
ery throbbing in the silent night. 

How many times Howadji opens and shuts 
his windows, how many times he goes upon 
deck, and how many times he is about to 
rouse the sleeping crew, we do not count. 
Thus pass the hours from 3 to 5 a. m., and 
by sunrise Sitt feels as if it must be some 
time in the afternoon. All hours at the 
best get mixed on a Nile journey, and our 
experience is the exact reverse of that of the 
shark, who "frequently breakfasts at five 
o'clock tea and dines on the following day," 
for we often eat our breakfast so early that 
by nine or ten we are ready for luncheon, 
and in the evening are sleepy before Ameri- 
cans of the last generation would have be- 
gun to think about dinner. 

At length bread, letters, and Abou Simbel 
come all at once. "Which can best wait? 
Not bread, for we, who have virtually been 
up all night, are ready for our breakfast ; not 



ABOU SIMBEL 105 

the sunrise tints on the wondrous temple, 
for there are no Joshuas ready to command 
the sun to go back ; not our first telegrams 
and home letters. A fitting of all in at the 
same time is arranged by having breakfast 
served on deck, sorting and reading letters 
between bites, and between watching the sun 
as it gilds one hill, then another. 

There being no wind, it will take two 
hours' tracking to do what fifteen minutes 
of yesterday's wind could have done for us. 
On this morning, however, we do not com- 
plain, for while the men track we breakfast, 
read the more important of our letters, and 
are ready by the time we are near enough 
to salute Rameses in all his glory, and give 
him our undivided attention. 

The Howadji had caught sight of a white 
face as the mail-boat steamed by, and would 
have very much liked to inquire from its 
owner the day of the week and the hour of 
the day. We feel sure it is Monday, but the 
crew are just as sure that it is Tuesday. It 
is much more upsetting than Sitt ever would 
have supposed not to know the day of the 
week. As to the hour of the day, either the 
Tropic of Cancer or the Southern Cross 



106 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

must have tampered with our watches, for 
there is over three quarters o£ an hour's dif- 
ference between them. They are both Wal- 
tham watches, but we do not know which 
one to be ashamed of, nor which to be proud 
of. Though no great astronomical calcula- 
tions are dependent upon our knowing the 
exact hour of sunset, or the exact hour of 
its rising again, it is still a comfort to our 
humble selves to know these little details of 
our everyday life. 

There is not a breath of wind, and as we 
approach w^hat should be the eighth wonder 
of the world, it is difficult to distinguish the 
reality from the reflections. What do we 
really see ? Since no one has ever been able 
to give us an intelligent description, so in 
turn Sitt decides that all should come to see 
for themselves ; for color and form are both 
difficult to express with pen and paper. 

First must be taken into consideration the 
bend and sweep of the river, the hills, and 
sand, which, by reason of the river's bend, we 
see in combination ; then the colors of each 
of these separately, then combined ; and fur- 
thermore the reflections of all: — the color of 
the sky, the color of the water, the color of 



ABOU SIMBEL 107 

the rocks, the violet tones in the mud-banks, 
the avalanches of sand like gigantic piles 
of Indian corn escaping and bursting from 
a granary, yellow, so yellow ; the pink and 
purple rocks show up between the great 
sand-drifts, and the outlines of the golden 
headlands reach to the water's edge ; — then 
imagine all this golden beauty reflected, 
doubled, in the river. 

Well it is that Nubia signifies '' golden. " 
When we have begun to digest some of 
this, we leave our houseboat and make the 
crossing of the river in our felucca. As we 
proceed yard by yard, the details of the tem- 
ple grow in clearness and beauty. At last 
we land at the very feet of the king. 

The hand of time has touched the fagade 
of the temple sufiiciently to add to its beauty 
rather than detract from it. Instead of four 
colossal seated figures, as the children would 
say, " pin for pin alike," with four heads 
wearing crowns, eight legs, and ever so many 
fingers and toes in exact rows, the end of the 
nineteenth century sees one figure broken 
away down to the waist, three out of the 
four crowns gone, one set of legs crumbled 
away ; a most picturesque ensemble. 



108 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

The proportions, the architecture, and the 
sculpture are what at first hold one spell- 
bound ; later the beauty of the faces, the 
generosity of the great six-feet-wide mouths, 
kind, calm, benign. The crown lies broken 
at the feet of the figure which is itself 
broken away. Why is it that the three re- 
maining figures are more beautiful than four 
could ever have been ? Why is the number 
three as subtly beautiful in architecture as it 
is fraught with grace in music ? 

It is difficult to find just the best point 
whence these giants can be rightly studied. 
Across the river one is too far off; at the 
temple's side one is too near; up the hill 
slope one is too much on top of them, and at 
their feet one is too much under them. They 
are so strangely human, so the reverse of 
stone or stony, these great figures of the 
great King Kameses II., that we search for 
the resemblance between them and the pa- 
thetic mummy of his majesty in the Ghizeh 
Museum. These represent him in his youth, 
when he was the cynosure of all eyes, the 
carver of men's destinies as well as the great- 
est builder-king that the world has ever seen, 
and could scarcely be expected to look in 





W€ 



ABOU SIMBEL 109 

any way like the attenuated, thin, and aged 
mummy of ninety odd summers. In the fig- 
ures can be seen the roundness of youth and 
a flexible mouth, while the mummy, even 
crumbling and blackened as it is, has the set 
mouth and jaw of one whose word has been 
more than law. 

The silence, the dignity, and the solemnity 
of any things dating back to many centuries 
before the Holy Babe was laid in a manger 
send us away speechless, to return to our 
home overwhelmed, glad for a while to leave 
the strange, weird grandeur of the temple 
fagade, and to turn to the everyday affairs of 
life. 

Nor have we time this morning to begin 
the study of either interior or exterior, for 
many details of home comfort await our per- 
sonal attention. Our moorage is to be cho- 
sen, not too near the temple, not where there 
is any chance of back water or special cou- 
rant d'air coming down between the hills ; it 
must be at some spot where the chickens can 
be put ashore, the lines for the washing can 
be strung, and the crew can have a kitchen 
in the cleft of some rock. There is also 
the remainder of the mail to be sorted ; the 



110 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

week's bread to put away where it will keep 
moist ; many things are to be done which we 
only can arrange. How far off concerts in 
London and Paris seem, and how meaning- 
less the rise and fall of New York stocks, 
as we read of them in the three weeks' old 
newspapers ; and how many engagements 
there must have been in South Africa ! Lady- 
smith and Bloemfontein have been on the 
lips of all, while we have been sailing back, 
back, back, into times older than Moses and 
Aaron. 

We find that our boat has already been 
poled across to a very fair little cove, and 
that the sailors are preempting a certain 
piece of the bank. The boundaries of our 
domain are being marked with stones and 
pieces of rock, while the chicken coops are 
opened to give our traveled fowls a chance 
to scratch round a bit. Some of the crew 
are already arranging stones for their kitchen, 
and putting their garments to soak in the 
river. 

These blacks have worked so hard, have 
trudged so many weary miles along the 
banks, tracking, poling, and wading in the 
shallows, that there has been little time for 



ABOU SIMBEL 111 

washing their clothes, for shaving and hair- 
cutting, and they look a sorry lot indeed. 
The discovery has been made that the guar- 
dian of the temple is a " tonsoriai artist/' 
used to shaving the different boats' crews on 
their up and down voyages. The price he 
asks is one millium (the tenth of a cent), but 
we are not sure whether our crew do not try 
to make a special bargain for the job lot. 
The artist has taken the "little temple" en- 
trance for the scene of his morning's work ; 
man after man squats before him to be shorn 
of curly locks and bristling beard. Since 
there are no morning papers to occupy those 
who wait their turn in this barber shop, they 
interview the watchman, and pass on to him 
all the latest news from down the river. 

The silence is unexpectedly broken this 
afternoon by the shrill whistle which echoes 
from headland to headland along the shore, 
and shortly a little paddle-wheel steamer 
draws up to the bank with its party of ex- 
cursionists on their way back from Khar- 
toum. In their itinerary is included " ten 
minutes to visit the Temple of Abou Sim- 
bel." 

" Ladies and gentlemen, do not forget to 



112 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

remember to bring your monument tickets/' 
calls the guide as the sloping bank becomes 
fairly alive with Europeans as well as na- 
tives; for along with the excursionists are 
some Greek traders and Italian settlers from 
Khartoum ; and all come from the boat 
much as ants issue from an ant-hill on which 
a traveler puts his foot. 

Alii, who shows strange sagacity where 
least expected, calls the sailors to drive our 
chickens into their coops, and stations him- 
self near our gangplank; even AUi knows 
the reputation of those who frequent towns 
which can only be said to border on civiliza- 
tion. 

The newcomers scramble up hill and 
down, chatter, and make themselves generally 
at home in and about the temple, which 
seems to have no special effect upon them. 
The poor old temple guardian is in despair, 
for one and all flock in without their one 
pound monument tickets, and the guide can 
scarcely begin his ten minutes' explanatory 
talk, for they are moving about, these 
Greeks and Italians, like so many small ani- 
mals. The few excursionists who hold a 
half loaf to be better than no bread are 



ABOU SIMBEL 113 

endeavoring to see one or two of the most 
noted wall decorations, realizing the futility 
of trying in the allotted time to get an idea 
of even one point of this great temple's 
beauty. One of the party, a Frenchman, on 
his way down from Khartoum, declares the 
whole trip to be a " sell," and he pronounces 
the governor's palace at Khartoum a very 
plain construction (he seems to have ex- 
pected to find something as beautiful as the 
Tuileries), — nothing at all. 

" C'est tout en I'air," he avers. Perhaps 
he had seen a map of all the new allotment 
of lands, and feels, as many of us have felt 
after going into a land scheme which ap- 
peared so vast and so finished when viewed 
on a plot, and so vague when seen on the 
spot. This Parisian is as full of surprise as 
a young American mother who once made 
the Nubian trip with her baby, and was as- 
tonished to find herself in a land where she 
could n't renew the baby's shoes, where there 
were no shops and no need for shops, and 
where, as Alii says, " Donkeys like people, 
no shoes." 

Fortunately for us, the crowd soon steams 
away ; many of the party having failed 



114 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

altogether to take in the grandeur of this 
rock wonder. We who are moored ahnost 
at its foot^ seeing it at sunrise^ at midday, in 
all the glory of the setting sun, then in the 
mystery of twiHght, then lighted by the tre- 
mendous brilliancy of this moon of the far 
south, have decided that but for its having 
been too far away for the world's experts to 
see easily, there would have been eight in- 
stead of seven wonders of the world. We 
who stay so long and adore so profoundly 
can appreciate a Httle the feeling of the 
Egyptologist who heard a party of excursion- 
ists brag that they had finished Karnak in 
one hour. 

" And have you seen it all ? " 
" Yes, and are just going to see Luxor." 
" How fortunate you are, for I have been 
studying for many years and have not fin- 
ished one wall ! " 

But the sarcasm was lost on the gay excur- 
sionists, who continued on their way, to take 
in, anaconda-like, other temples in the course 
of the afternoon. 

The Upper Egypt silence is often broken 
by trivial and quaint remarks which linger 
long after in one's memory, where one would 



ABOU SIMBEL 115 

wish more important things could indeHbly 
engrave themselves ; remarks such as a trav- 
eler was heard to make, that she would have 
enjoyed Egypt very much but for " so many 
dug-up things." 



CHAPTER XII 

LOST IN THE DESERT 

The Howadji is out by sunrise to study 
the work of that giant of architects and 
sculptors, whoever he was, and declares that 
he has scarcely time to draw a long breath 
until 11 A. M. During these forenoon hours 
the mercury often rises some forty and more 
degrees. But this is unheeded by him to- 
day in the excitement of noting the differ- 
ence that each hour of added sunlight makes 
in his great models. By 10 a. m. the heat 
has become so great that Sitt sends a sailor 
to tell Howadji to put up his paints ; since 
he does not heed, she sends another sailor 
at twenty minutes past ten, and since he still 
works on, then she goes herself to remind 
him of the sun's rays. From 11 a. m. he 
sits in a darkened cabin, to save eyes and 
brain for the afternoon task which he sets 
himself. The afternoon's work, however, is 
knocked off early in order that he may climb 



LOST IN THE DESERT 117 

with Sitt to the top of the yellow avalanche 
to the immediate north of the temple : the 
avalanche which lovingly throws nature's 
arm around the rock figures, trying to draw 
them again into her own being, to cover them, 
to surround them, and to preserve them for 
another thousand years. Like the ice maid- 
en's embrace, her enveloping arms are, from 
the tourist's point of view, to be dreaded. 

Her mantle not only swings around and 
across their giant knees, but with a sweep 
seeks even to reach the heart, the inner being 
of the great temple. 

With this avalanche the perpetual war of 
the Excavation Society is waged. A wall 
has been built on the top of the ridge to ward 
off its enveloping and overpowering inroads, 
but while the society sleep it is ever at work ; 
while they collect new funds, it is obliterat- 
ing the results of their recent efforts. 

It is no little exertion to climb this yellow 
slope, for each foot sinks deep in the soft 
particles. Several times it seems as if we 
slip back rather than move forward. With 
perseverance, at length the level of the knees 
of the sitting giants is reached ; then breath- 
less, panting, the level of their shoulders; 



118 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE. 

now we are high enough to look down on 
their heads ; now up, up, up, to the proximity 
of the frieze of monkeys, whence the top of 
the hill seems visible. To try to stand still is 
to slip back, to plunge forward with back 
bowed, almost on hands and knees, is to gain 
still a higher outlook. Each point shows one 
still higher to be investigated, until finally it 
is a scramble among large and small pieces of 
what looks like pink and purple lava to the 
real plateau, whence we can see over a dis- 
tance of many miles, but everywhere and in 
every direction the same broken stones, lit up 
by the resplendent rays of the fast sinking 
sun. We know this is not lava, but only a 
flint noddle from which the lime has been 
disintegrated by the heat of many centuries 
of sun, broken into small pieces of black, dark 
red, purple, or pink scales, like a great, never- 
ending marble-yard of colored marbles, where 
hundreds of workmen have cut and graded 
millions of blocks. 

And this is the great Libyan desert. For 
miles there is not so much as a green sprig. 
Sitt has often pictured to herself a desert as 
a flat, colorless plain, while this is in reality 
full of color, rising and falling into many 



LOST IN THE DESERT 119 

hills and dales, golden in the sun, and spar- 
kling where there is a deposit of the little 
atoms of sand which have been rolled and 
winnowed by the wind until every particle of 
dust is gone. We have no microscope in our 
pockets, but take enough sand home in our 
shoes to serve for exhaustive examination 
that evening. Some of those atoms are like 
minute red beads, others like bits of ame- 
thyst ; then again is a tiny object which must 
be a cornelian. 

Up upon this plateau we find far less sand 
than one would suppose ; it is in many places 
as clean as a newly swept barn floor, with the 
chaff and the grain separated into distinct 
mounds. Are we assisting at the creation of 
the world up here in this limitless waste, or 
is it the end of the world ? Has everything 
been destroyed by fire, and we alone left to 
tell the tale ? Was such loneliness ever pos- 
sible to comprehend until we had seen it for 
ourselves ? 

The wind has risen, and the river far be- 
low looks like nothing but a dark ribbon ; 
the sand around us is blowing all in one di- 
rection, is rolling over and over to join, those 
avalanches which have already begun their 



120 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

headlong descent to the river. Sometimes 
it is caught in the cleft of the rock, and piles 
up much as snow piles itself in a great win- 
ter blizzard ; at one point it is many feet 
deep, and a yard away it is hard to collect a 
handful. 

We pass on to investigate a great pile of 
stones, a kind of cairn which marks the high- 
est point, whence we have a still farther out- 
look over this limitless face of nature. We 
are battling with the wind, and when we 
turn to retrace our steps, we find that our 
footprints have been entirely obliterated ; that 
from this inland point we have now quite lost 
sight of the river ; that the natural formation 
is the same whichever way we turn ; that we 
have no exact idea in which direction our 
little Terrapin lies. The twilights are short 
in December, and the moon past its full could 
not light us on our way until late. 

In our geological ecstasies we have quite 
forgotten that the sun has set, and with our 
footprints gone, we will have to be very 
quick if we are to find our way home before 
the intense chill of the evening overtakes us. 

The Howadji once owned a colHe which 
sometimes missed his master in the throng of 



LOST IN THE DESERT 121 

hurrying people in the street. When this 
happened, he would dart off in one direction, 
and, not finding him, would return to the 
point of departure and dart off again another 
way in his search for his hest friend. He 
never seemed to lose his bearings, and returned 
again and again to the dividing of the ways 
until he was successful in his quest. This 
the Howadji remembers, and now, he thinks, 
is the moment to copy his old intelligent 
herder of sheep. So while Sitt crouches 
down at the cairn to escape the fury of the 
wind, he sets out to discover the way which 
we have come such a few moments before. 
With Sitt as a pivot he makes several trips 
in various directions, until in the twilight he 
comes upon the end of a stone wall round 
which he remembers having climbed. This 
serves as one station on our backward journey 
to the river. These walls had been built above 
the temple to form slight barriers against the 
sand, and to turn it from its ordinary course 
into channels farther away from the temple, — 
to the north and to the south, — and they 
are just the landmarks we need to determine 
which descent to make. With this wall to 
guide us, and the wind to help, we plant our 



122 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

feet in an abrupt declivity of sand ; and now 
we have little more to do than to free our feet 
and let our weight carry us down, sand and 
all. So arm in arm, and throwing our weight 
back, we fairly coast down. In the shelter 
of the hill we find our footprints there re- 
maining, and footprints also of some jackals, 
which had evidently come down to the river 
from the hills the night previous. 

It is only on finding these tracks that 
the Howadji realizes how uneasy he has been 
during the last half hour. Had we not soon 
appeared, the sailors would certainly have 
come in search of us, with AUi at their head ; 
but it would have been such an ignominious 
ending to this our first evening of explora- 
tion, for the reis had never before trusted us 
away from the dahabeah unescorted by sev- 
eral of the crew. 

And here indeed is AUi at the foot of the 
hill, looking anxious ; and no sooner does he 
see our heads appearing over the top of the 
last sand slope than he calls to one of the crew 
to bring a lantern, but all he says to us is, — 

" Come to tell Sitt dinner ready." 

There are lights shining from the cabin 
windows, our slippers are near the gangplank. 



LOST IN THE DESERT 123 

and the crew proffer their aid in divesting 
us of our sand-filled boots, for they are al- 
ways jealous because AUi can apparently do 
so much more for our personal comfort than 
they. 

How comfortable and sheltered our house- 
boat is after the sweeping winds on the top 
of that plateau ! and how delicious that sim- 
ple dinner of stewed chicken and rice, with 
canned tomatoes, and blanc-mange of con- 
densed milk to " taper off with/' as a famous 
caterer used to say ! 

Sitt's usual complaint at dinner is that she 
has not been able to get enough exercise, 
but not so to-night. 

Now that the water is so low, there is a 
bank, a mile and more long, left in midstream 
just opposite the temple, where Sitt walks 
each day, to get up an appetite for dinner ; 
but from the taste of this chicken and rice, 
she thinks she may be able to dispense with 
her regular pacing for a day or two. 

The reis cannot understand why she takes 
this walk up and down on mud, — which is 
as hard as a sand beach, — and he sends two 
men to walk behind her. Almost daily this 
little procession can be seen wending its way. 



124 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

for there is not a length of a hundred yards 
on the temple side which can serve as a track. 
On the opposite bank there is also the added 
advantage of seeing from this exercising 
ground the lovely reflections of topaz sand, 
amethyst hills, turquoise sky and river. It 
is easy to imagine all the colors of the celes- 
tial city, as given in Revelation. As Sitt 
does her three or four miles, the sailors look 
at her with wonder. They follow close at her 
heels, and row her back to the Terrapin later, 
in time for their midday naps. They have a 
strange capacity for napping, by the way, and 
never seem to get too much sleep ; they can 
waken at a moment's notice, attend to any 
duty, and then drop fast asleep again, all 
within ten minutes. Now that we are moored 
and they have nothing to do but give the 
boat her morning scrubbing, they appear to 
divide their time equally between sleeping 
and wondering what the white people will 
want to do next. Everything that we do is 
to them a mystery ; when the Howadji paints 
and sketches, sketches and paints, they are 
as interested as when the Sitt writes and sews, 
sews and writes, though less so, perhaps, than 
when she goes into that storeroom, where. 



LOST IN THE DESERT 125 

besides giving out the necessaries for the 
table, she is almost sure to find something 
they like. And after all it takes so little to 
please them. A small handful of raisins, a 
little piece of chocolate, a bowl of rice, or a 
loaf of stale white bread is all they want to 
make them happy. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 

When Howadji was a pupil at the Ecole 
Nationale des Beaux Arts, his master, Caba- 
nel, often sent him from the jolly painting 
studio to the galleries of antique casts below, 
insisting that he must draw from the antique, 
must make heavier drafts upon them for in- 
spiration and for accuracy in drawing. The 
Howadji feels to-day that his master would 
indeed be satisfied to see him studying at the 
feet of this mighty work of art, this antique 
temple of Abou Simbel. He has gone even 
farther back than the counselor advised, — 
back of classic Rome, back of classic Greece, 
to the fountain which inspired their unfail- 
ing beauty and accuracy ; but he declares it 
is far enough, not only as to date, but as to 
latitude, and that he will go no farther. 

He is enthusiastic over the beauty, the 
grandeur, and color of this monument, and 
has laid out work enough to last until sum- 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 127 

mer. If Sitt, he says^ wishes to see Wady- 
Halfa and Khartoum;, she can take the boat 
and crew and sail alone ; all that he asks is 
a gun, some of the kitchen utensils, his 
paints, and — Alii Hassan. Sitt, however, 
has no idea of being sent adrift alone. So 
it is decided that Abou Simbel shall be the 
southernmost point of the Terrapin's voyage, 
and content with this chain of hills for land- 
scape and Abou Simbel for temple, we shall 
sail back to the haunts of men and women, 
to say good-by to the fading century among 
some of our own age and nation, for it would 
indeed be hopeless to expect Kameses to 
awake to the realization that this nineteenth 
century is nearing its close, — to arouse him 
to the fact that fin de siecle will be out of 
style for many years to come. 

But what is a century to these wonderful 
old fellows, sitting on their thrones as if to 
judge the world thousands of years and 
dozens of centuries in succession ? Yet they 
may never see another century, these statues 
which have looked down on so many ; they 
have been protected most of these years by 
the sand which buried them, — protected 
from the still more aged abou. Father Time. 



128 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

There is no knowing how many centuries 
they must have lain hidden, to be unburied 
and resurrected in this the nineteenth century 
after Christ. Only for this, the early Copts 
would have destroyed them, would have 
chopped off their noses, perhaps hacked those 
expressive toes. 

Neither the Christians nor Cambyses saw 
this monument, any more than Herodotus 
saw the Sphinx ; for Abou Simbel, like the 
Sphinx, must have been buried, and perhaps 
by some change in the currents of wind have 
been resurrected. 

Monsieur de Maillet, French consul at 
Cairo, makes no mention of this temple in 
his description of Egypt published in 1735. 
Burckhardt, in 1813, found two heads ap- 
pearing above the sand, while the entrance 
to the temple was thirty feet below the sur- 
face. In Miss Edwards's time — 1874 — the 
drift only rose '^ to the lap of the northern- 
most colossus, and but halfway up the legs 
of the next." Still a few years later Dudley 
Warner writes of climbing into the lap of 
one of the statues. Now — 1899 — even 
to climb into the lap is an undertaking. 
Warner says, " It is there only that you get 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 129 

an adequate idea of the real size of the body. 
What a roomy lap ! Nearly ten feet between 
the wrists that rest on the legs ! " The fa- 
gade and doorway of the temple were cleared 
for the empress of the French when, after 
the inauguration of the Suez canal, she made 
the ascent of the Nile. 

The sand strengthened and preserved these 
great seated colossi, while all those which in 
the most distant way resembled them as to 
size and workmanship He broken or shattered. 
The head and shoulders that have broken 
away must have fallen in very ancient days, 
when the plateau at the foot of the colossi 
was still kept cleared by order of the high 
priests or reigning dynasty, for had the 
masses fallen subsequently, they would have 
found no place to lodge, and have slipped 
from the sand incline into the very river 
itself. The repairs of the knees and legs go 
back as far as to the dynasty following that 
to which Rameses himself belonged. 

The rifts as we find them now are so great, 
the crevices and cracks in the stone so deep, 
in these great figures, that if some moderns 
do not come to their rescue, and with care 
and science patch together the great pieces 



130 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

which seem, as Sitt says, " hanging by a 
thread/' down will come " baby, cradle and 
all." 

In 1892 a Eoyal engineer, with some offi- 
cers and men, arrived at Abou Simbel with a 
view to partially repairing the face and side 
of the rock temple. First they cleared away 
several enormous masses of overhanging rock 
which, had they fallen^ must have inflicted 
great damage to the colossal statues below, 
and, having broken them into smaller pieces, 
used them for building walls at the head of 
the valley to prevent the drift sand from 
again burying the temple. 

One of the colossi has lost head and shoul- 
ders beyond repair, and two others have 
broken away from the wall whence they were 
hewn by order of that architect of long ago, 
and a small earthquake, such as is felt in 
Egypt from time to time, would place them 
in great jeopardy. Then again it has rained 
at Assouan, and who knows how soon it may 
rain at Abou Simbel? With the increased 
irrigation, planting of trees, and holding up 
of the river by the new barrage, that it 
should rain even at Abou Simbel is not be- 
yond an impossibility. A smart shower run- 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 131 

ning into the crevices and cracks of the sand- 
stone in the cool of early morning, then 
heated at midday, would bring these tons of 
sandstone thundering down. 

Longest lived of aU will be the southern- 
most figure. It is at present the most per- 
fect, and stands, as it were, in a niche, — that 
is, if a seventy-feet high recess can be called 
a niche, — protected by its companions and 
the hillside from northern winds, and by the 
southern hillside from many hours of the 
sun's rays each day. Insurance experts would 
have very nice calculations to make in insur- 
ing these figures of the great king. 

To the description of this temple in its 
marvelous setting of golden sand which 
Champollion, Wilkinson, Amelia Edwards, 
Dudley Warner, Budge, Sayce, and others 
have given, what can Sitt add? None of 
them can overdraw or exaggerate what we 
have come so far to see. As one goes back 
from the present into this far-away past, 
leaves the madding crowd of modern days 
for the lonely, sand-swept land of Nubia, a 
feeling of solemnity, and then almost of ex- 
altation, possesses him. He is haunted by 
the spirit of the past. As he contemplates 



132 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

its antiquity, the limitless ages, his mind 
dwells upon the very Creator of all things, 
whom he seems to be approaching very close. 
The feeling intensifies as the present is grad- 
ually left behind down river, and it is not 
surprising that a party of excursionists, visit- 
ing the temple at sunrise, should have fallen 
on their knees as they saw the ray which one 
special day in the year shoots in at the out- 
ermost portal of the great rock temple, back 
to the second chamber, then the third, then 
shines right into the cella, the holy of hoHes, 
where sits the king with the figures of three 
gods. Overwrought, you may say, half 
hysterical by the dramatic effect ; impressed 
by what they cannot explain ; — or a prac- 
tical explanation may be that this half 
hour's excursion was taken before breakfast, 
before the inner man — that monster who 
will be appeased no matter at what incon- 
venience to our higher nature — has had his 
coffee and rolls. 

The interior of the temple is in a wonder- 
ful state of repair, the coloring on the wall 
decorations is clear and bright, and many of 
the colossal figures of Osiris which support 
the roof are perfectly conserved. Whether 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 133 

or not the outside was also colored has been 
a question J but it is a question which seems 
easily enough answered when we observe the 
color in the nostrils of the tumbled down 
head, and in the ornaments of the thigh dra- 
pery of the figure to the north of the en- 
trance door, and on the side which is pro- 
tected from the north wind. 

We are moored under the smaller rock 
temple, the first monument ever erected to a 
woman. The face of the cliff, about a hun- 
dred feet from the water's edge, — as the 
water now is, — has been smoothed away for 
over fifty feet, and the six figures stand in 
their niches. This temple was erected to 
the goddess of love, Hathor, whose repre- 
sentative was at that moment Nefertari, the 
queen of Rameses II. 

The old inscriptions relate that " his ma- 
jesty has commanded a temple to be made 
in the land of Khent in an excavation in the 
mountain ; never was such a thing done be- 
fore." Now this proves that the idea was 
original with the king himself, — this idea 
of cutting into the very face of the moun- 
tain, — and it also proves that this temple 
was the first of its kind. 



134 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Howadji's notion is that the king may 
have been disappointed with the carvings 
and modehngs, and when he came to in- 
spect the work^ architects and sculptors may 
have had their heads cut off. For those 
who afterwards carved the temple hard by 
" builded better/' and profited^ perhaps, by 
the sad fate of the makers of the very 
homely statues of the princesses which 
adorn (?) the smaller temple. 

The interior is gained by a tall, narrow 
entrance, and for the full details of its wall 
inscriptions and decorations, see Baedeker's 
Egypt. 

There is a legend that another temple, 
with other huge colossi, exists " four hours 
inland " from these noted ones on the river 
bank ; but there is no way of proving 
whether this tradition has the least founda- 
tion. We have interviewed the old guardian, 
"who has lived about here for forty years," as 
to its existence. He has often heard of such 
a temple, it appears, but never seen it, and 
he brings us the sheik of the village — and 
where even this village is, we do not know. 

" Did you ever see it ? " we ask. 

"No." 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 135 

" Do you know any one who has ever seen 
it?" 

"No." 

" Do you know the way to it ? " 

" Yes ; four or five hours behind Abou 
Simbel." 

Now four or five hours behind Abou Sim- 
bel might sound very definite, had we not 
chmbed to the top of the ridge and looked 
across that barren waste. 

It seems that all the legends agree on the 
distance being " four hours ; " and that can- 
not be far, for one goes slowly through the 
deep sand, the loose stones and rocks. But 
the question would be at what angle to start 
from. We can diverge at any of fifty angles 
from Abou Simbel, and how different the 
points at which we would bring up would 
depend upon the angle of departure. There 
are no camels or donkeys to be had in the 
neighborhood, so the journey must be made 
on foot; four hours out and four hours 
back, eight hours in all. The sun rises after 
seven in the morning and sets a little after 
fiYQ. We cannot start more than an hour 
before sunrise. That gives ten or more 
hours of light, and leaves two hours for re- 



136 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

f reshment and a view of the temple^ — that 
is, if we find it. Were there camels, we 
might arrange to camp out for one night 
and make a sunrise sketch. Surely it would 
be a great thing to find and locate this 
legendary temple, a temple still unexplored 
by the Egyptologists. 

" You could find the road ? " we question. 

He nods his head ; " Iowa " (yes). 

" Will you guide us ? " 

" La ! La ! " (no ! no !) he exclaims, with a 
shudder. " No one goes there, no living 
man has ever seen it ; no man can look upon 
it and live," he hastily adds. 

The Howadji turns to AUi, who is as 
usual our interpreter. 

" AUi, what do you think? " 

" Sheik big head, think he lie — never you 
mind." 

And thus our would-be discovery comes 
suddenly to an end; and we can only say, in 
the words of our school-day friend, " we know 
of it, but cannot tell you." 

It is suggested that perhaps this tradition- 
ary temple lies under the beautiful avalanche 
of sand between the great and the smaller 
rock temples of Abou Simbel, just ready to 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 137 

be discovered without such a haphazard jour- 
ney as a four hours' walk across desert — 
angle of departure unknown. 

During several hours of last night we were 
ready to believe in ghosts and goblins, in 
ghouls and river furies, in legends of their 
existence not only in the past but in the 
present, for the sandstorm, of which we had 
seen the beginning on the plateau above, 
grew in fury, and sleep was impossible. 

The wind came down upon us at our moor- 
ing, turning each plank and each piece of 
cordage in this old boat into what seems a 
living presence. The rudder sighed, sobbed, 
and groaned to be let loose ; the tighter he 
was lashed, the more he complained. The 
planks of the flooring, left loose the more 
easily to gain the shallow hold, all told each 
other funny " stories disparaging their 
friends," and rattled and shook with amuse- 
ment at our discomfiture. The ropes whipped 
themselves into a mad fury against the boat, 
and sounded like a family of children being 
spanked (although our spanker was tightly 
furled and lashed). The river swished and 
swashed under the hull, lifted us up, dropped 
us down, ran up the little indentures in the 



138 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

bank, and down again, trying to get into 
mischief. He told us what was going on fur- 
ther south, then ran on with his news to the 
next craft. The windows, the blinds, and the 
nettings all clapped their hands and played 
tom-tom against the window frames at the 
Europeans trying to sleep in a Nubian gale ; 
for a veritable gale it was, and the noise as 
incessant as a squirrel going round and round 
in a cage. The wind sighed like the violins 
in the overture of some great work of Wag- 
ner, and it took but little imagination to 
hear the motive of Iseult's death, or the 
passing of the Valkyrie. 

Who would think that such inoffensive 
things as flag halliards could make night 
hideous ? Yet unless tied at a distance from 
the flagstaff, they will alone in their thin, 
mean way, murder sleep. It was impossible 
to make Eeis Mohammed understand why we 
objected to these little creaking, squealing, 
pinching, screeching, grumbling sounds, to 
say nothing of the motion which waked us 
now and again — if perchance we had fallen 
asleep — with the feeling that there must be 
an earthquake. 

There is no fitting square objects into round 



THE UNDISCOVERED TEMPLE 139 

holes, and there is no chance for land-lubbers 
like ourselves to get used to all the queer 
doings of a Nile houseboat in one season. 

Each point of the Terrapin must be 
studied in turn, — how to keep her cool, how 
to ventilate without admitting a gale, how to 
bear all the strange noises when the gale is 
a reality. Lectures and lessons to those 
about to venture up the Nile would not come 
amiss, and might, perhaps, be as useful as 
Franklin's advice to those " about to take a 
sea voyage." 

We find the prints of a small animal's 
feet near the chicken coop this morning ; 
some canny four-footer who wished to profit 
by the noise and confusion of the gale to 
have a volaille au voleur, we think. AUi, 
however, is always expected to know of every- 
thing which comes or goes, and questioned as 
to what this was, replies, — 

" Small like a dog — no dog — like dog 
— big tail not like dog — yellow not like 
sand." 

We understand. Without doubt it was a 
jackal, and one of our early morning groan- 
ings must have scared off the little thief. 
Howadji decides that some night — not 



140 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

to-night or to-morrow night — he will sit up 
and secure a jackal skin to take home, for 
the alligator market does n't seem to be held 
in Upper Egypt these years, and travelers 
must carry home some hunting trophies, must 
they not ? 

If you have had no shot at an alligator, 
we know where there is one, for Keis Mo- 
hammed saw one come down the cataract at 
Assouan. If the engineers have not pulled 
all the stones out of the cataract by the time 
we reach Shellal, we can without doubt find 
this alligator, for reis saw him only five years 
ago. 



CHAPTEE XIV 

EARLY IMPRESSIONISTS 

With Sunday morning comes a lull after 
Saturday's gale. The reflections of sky, 
sand, and rock are clear, so clear, as we start 
away in the felucca with four men to row up- 
stream. Howadji does not open his paint- 
box on Sundays, save to catch some passing 
effect, which he declares never has its like 
on week days, and he does not turn out at 
sun-up as on the other days of the week. 
This Sunday we are to go to church four 
miles away, — to a Christian church, that is 
to say, a rock chamber which was a Christian 
church centuries ago, and a rock temple cen- 
turies before that. 

Hewn out of the rocky headland, and 
decorated for the cult of ancient Nubia, it 
was later taken by some of Bishop Theodo- 
sius's followers, who overlaid and defaced the 
Horuses, the Thoths, the Muts, and other 
heathen decorations, frescoing over them, in 



142 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

colored washes, figures of Saint John, Saint 
George, and even of the Saviour. The outline 
of the life-size figure of Saint George on 
horseback can easily be traced, for the color- 
ing of his gay apparel — he is here dressed 
as a Turk — is quite apparent. Many of the 
colors of these frescoes are yet clear and 
bright, though the more ancient figures show 
through here and there — producing, for all 
the world, the appearance of a composite 
photograph. In many of the ancient temples 
are figures of horses and donkeys unattended, 
and in others of horses harnessed to chariots, 
but in this little rock temple appears the only 
figure on horseback — that is, the only one 
we remember. 

These decorations, however, only go back 
to some date early in this era, and cannot 
therefore be taken as examples of Egyptian 
temple decoration. The original decorations 
are cut in the soft limestone in low relief. 
A thin coating of plaster was laid on them to 
fill up the grain of the sandstone, and upon 
this white plaster surface the Egyptian deities 
were painted in flat tones of different colors. 
The low relief, with artistically rounded 
edges, gives a delightful effect of shading. 



EARLY IMPRESSIONISTS 143 

Over this first work the Copts — or " dogs 
of Christians/' as they are called — white- 
washed liberally, and then employed some 
impressionist painter upon the wall spaces. 
His work was vulgarly conceived, badly 
drawn, and badly colored ; the sooner, there- 
fore, it passes away, the better. Far better 
no soi-disant sacred subjects at all than any- 
thing which offends and lowers — better the 
more ancient ones which will be found al- 
most intact when some traveler on the Cape 
to Cairo Limited stops over a train to visit 
this strange rock temple. 

Sitt finds that fifteen to twenty minutes is 
all that she can stand in one of these old 
holes in the rock. There is a close, hot odor 
of bats, and as soon as the lights awake 
these creatures further investigation is im- 
possible for her. So she takes refuge in the 
national " bockra " (to-morrow), and finds 
that even "bad bockra " (day after to-mor- 
row) is soon enough. 

The other day Sitt had the courage to 
enter certain inner chambers of the great 
rock temple of Abou Simbel to study some 
of the wall decorations which are noted, and 
worthily so. Several of the sailors lighted 



144 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

her way with candles attached to pieces of 
stickj and as a special compliment the reis 
himself carried high in air the Rochester 
lamp. And to this lamp must he attributed 
the awakening in one of the chambers of 
what seemed a million bats. They had grown 
too accustomed to candles of various qualities 
to be much put out by them, but before an 
American lamp they rebelled. As they had 
the prior claim, Sitt decided to retire, which 
she did in all haste and with very little cere- 
mony, indeed scarcely in good form. She 
will doubtless on future occasions study those 
special rooms in the guide-book rather than 
in propria persona. 

To which of the old Egyptian deities was 
the white owl sacred? It must have been 
the goddess or god of twilight, for at this 
hour each day a white owl flies round the 
corner of the rocky headland, and vanishes 
into the innermost depths of the temple. 
Does he go to take counsel of one of the 
strange figures which sit in a row in the 
cella of the temple, and upon whom the sun 
shines but once in the year, or is it to feast 
upon those millions of bats? What a feast 
he must have, to be sure. Let us hope that 



EARLY IMPRESSIONISTS 145 

he takes some home to his family in the early 
morning, after his night of revel and feast- 
ing. Every now and then he gives a little 
hoot of delight as he flies back and forth, 
and makes a tempting shot as he comes reck- 
lessly near us. But we are fond of white 
visions. Perhaps some evening he will bring 
his mate to the feast, or appear with a young- 
ster or two to train in his wicked ways of 
stopping out all night. 

From the little temple of Gebel Addeh it 
was but a short row to the ruins of the long 
ago deserted fortress of Addeh. This com- 
manding headland was once a Saracen pos- 
session, though for how many centuries 
deserted, " we will not tell ; " and on the 
top of the heights are the ruins of a large 
town. 

Addeh is on the opposite bank from Abou 
Simbel, and between these points there may 
have been continuous lines of habitations, 
whose people must have lived by the levying 
of heavy toll upon those who passed up or 
down stream, for they certainly did not thrive 
from the arable land in this region. There 
is but a narrow strip on one side of the river, 
while on the other are only rocks or sand. A 



146 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

temple of such magnificence would naturally 
point to a surrounding country of impor- 
tance, witliin a few hours' journey by land 
or water of the abode of peoples and their 
rulers. 

The history of the Saracens is so pictur- 
esque that we would fain know more of this 
fortress of Addeh, whence we have our south- 
ernmost view of the Nile and the Libyan 
desert. Looking from the top of it, as far 
as we can see with eyes alone, and with strong 
field-glasses, stretches an endless waste of 
golden sand, with little pyramidal shaped 
hills, red rock headlands, and the Nile ap- 
pearing like a sea-serpent, twining, curving, 
turning away, away, away, out of the picture. 

They tell us of good stores to be bought 
at Haifa, and of a railroad on to Khartoum, 
and then to all the country that Du Chaillu 
and Livingstone made interesting to our 
youth ; and then, with mighty jumps many 
leagues to the south, we have many friends 
in battle array in the Transvaal. 

The imagination once started finds it hard 
to draw a line ; when one is seven hundred 
miles up the Nile, why not make it a thou- 
sand and even more? But to the idea 



EARLY IMPRESSIONISTS 147 

of pushing on further^ Sitt only answers, 
" Home again, home again, jig-ady-jig." 

When we next come, Khartoum will be a 
real village, perhaps a flourishing city of red 
brick houses, with gay white marble trim- 
mings ; with a government house on the site 
where Gordon's residence once stood ; with a 
war of&ce, a court of justice, a post-of&ce, a 
prison ; with a great college, where the youth 
of the Soudan will receive a civil service edu- 
cation, and a special department will be estab- 
lished for young women. This college is 
announced as " primarily for the sons of 
the Sheiks, one hundred and fifty of whom 
it will undertake to train in the knowledge 
of telegraphy, engineering, and kindred prac- 
tical sciences, side by side with elementary 
scholastic subjects." 

With all these buildings in progress, the 
stranger, the traveler in the land, has not 
been forgotten, for there is a hotel going up 
which will in the course of a few months be 
open to sixty guests ; and in the mean time 
there is comfortable lodging on the railroad 
sleepers, and in the government steam wheel- 
ers — on the river. 

Now our crew have never thought of our 



148 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

pushing on to Khartoum, but they have ex- 
pected to go to Haifa. The cook says he 
wishes to visit his brother at Haifa — but we 
have been already warned not to let him go, 
and the crew have friends and old acquaint- 
ances to be looked up there. How shall we 
break it to them that they will go no farther 
than this rock headland of Gebel Addeh ? 



CHAPTEE XV 

THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 

One of the living presences for us along 
the Upper Nile stretch is Miss Edwards. Is 
it because of a certain turn she gives her 
sentences, or is it her way of word painting ? 
We are not sure, but certain it is that she 
and Eameses II. are for us two living pre- 
sences. We had promised ourselves each day 
since mooring to search out " her tomb/' as 
we always call it, — the tomb discovered by 
one of her party, — but each day till now has 
been full. Her history says it is toward the 
south of the great temple. Since toward the 
south the rock sheers off to the river, it is 
preferable to skirt the shore in the felucca to 
the given point. On starting Sitt perceives 
several votive tablets, interesting but effaced, 
and a marble tablet set into the rock in mem- 
ory of some of those who fell in the campaign 
in 1884, with its inscription both in English 
and Arabic. There are pages in Miss Ed- 



150 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

wards's guide about the discovery of her tomb, 
the finding of first one chamber, then an- 
other; so the little sail is hoisted, and the 
shore hugged, while Sitt peers into every 
crevice in the rock. 

Since AUi could not go along as interpreter, 
being busy keeping the flies off Howadji, 
and the cook, who also speaks pigeon English, 
was kept busy wrestling with the dinner 
question, Sitt is alone with reis and his four 
sailors, who have been clearly told that she 
wishes to find the dom, to which two of the 
sailors at once declare they know the way. 

Baedeker's guide says, " A little to the 
south of the colossi;" it may therefore be but 
a hundred yards off, yet again it may be a 
half mile. As the half mile grows into a mile, 
Sitt becomes impatient and orders the sail 
lowered, murmuring the while, " Dom, dom." 

'' Iowa " (yes), says the reis. 

There must be some mistake, but where 
the mistake is, Sitt cannot imagine. 

The sailors are now making ready to dis- 
embark ; the reis brings the felucca alongside 
the bank and holds his hand out to Sitt, indi- 
cating that the spot has been reached, and 
that the dom is within walking distance. 



THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 151 

Up the bank moves the little procession to 
the level of the ploughed land, but so far as 
she can see there is nothing which resembles 
a dom. After walking for five minutes 
through very deep sand the sailors gather 
under a palm-tree which looks as if it had 
been struck by lightning, and indicate that 
the object of the expedition is reached, say- 
ing in chorus, '^ Dom ; dom palm." 

The revulsion of feeling is great ; Sitt 
bursts out into almost hysterical laughter 
at the misunderstanding. She has said 
" dom " when she should have said " birbie," 
and they have brought her all this way to 
see this stricken dom palm, which has a poor 
old worn trunk and but two or three with- 
ered leaves. 

After the good laugh, the reason of which 
she cannot explain for lack of an interpreter, 
she says, " Dahabeah," and apparently sat- 
isfied that they have shown her what she 
asked for, the sailors turn about, and the fe- 
lucca being reentered, they row downstream 
with the current. 

Thwarted, but still determined to find that 
tomb, Sitt decides to ask the old guardian of 
the temple, for he must certainly have heard 



152 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

of Sitt Edwards's wonderful discovery of 
1874. 

" The Sitt was sitting in there yesterday/' 
is his answer. Evidently he too fails to 
grasp the subject as she puts it, so AUi is 
called, and after full explanation and much 
chattering between the two — for does not 
an unknown foreign language always sound 
like chattering ? — AUi says : — 

'' Room where Howadji light he pipe every 
day — every day when the wind blow; — 
where guardian sleep," adds AUi. 

Not that little room where some painters 
who came up last year to Abou Simbel made 
a fire and were hauled over the coals by the 
authorities, thinks Sitt ; not that little room 
twelve by nine feet, with apparently no 
other chambers leading from it ! What a 
disappointment ! 

She remembers other disappointments, such 
as the Palatine Hill in Rome, where there 
is so much more indicated on the maps and 
in the guides than she was ever able to find 
on the hill itself. Those disappointments^ 
however, belong to days when she was a very 
young sightseer, when she went to look for 
long arcades and covered porches and ban- 



THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 153 

queting halls as drawn by various worthy 
authorities, and in each case found very little 
on which to build all the descriptions, mea- 
surements, and details. 

In the case of this tomb, she thinks it 
must be the sand which is to blame, of whose 
relentless encroachments we have a daily 
instance in the path which leads from our 
dahabeah to the great temple : each morning 
the men must dig it out, for every twenty- 
four hours the sand covers it. 

Had Sitt, however, followed Miss Edwards's 
guide a little more closely, she would prob- 
ably have found the spot more easily, for that 
reads : " Southwards and past the Great Tem- 
ple climbed to the top of a little shapeless 
mound of fallen cliff and sand and crude 
brick wall just against the corner where the 
mountain slopes down the river." Like every- 
thing else in life, it seems very clear when you 
know all about it. Perhaps the most inter- 
esting line in connection with Miss Edwards's 
original discovery is : " . . . on the space of 
blank wall over the inside of the doorway, 
and this was the only occasion upon which 
any of us left our names on any Egyptian 
monument." The writing is still visible, and 



154 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

consists of half a dozen names, with the date, 
February 16, 1874. One can still decipher 
them — if one knows beforehand what they 
are ; but strange enough, the one which 
is the least decipherable is that of the histo- 
rian of the tomb herself — A. B. Edwards. 

We are all what is called " countrified." 
This getting up before the sun and going to 
sleep before 8 p. m. would be the best cure 
for nervous prostration. No hurry about 
shopping engagements, no shuffling out of 
receiving callers where there are no callers 
to interrupt work or repose. Such close- 
ness to nature, such freedom, is hard to find 
in this century, where everything is tuned 
more or less to concert pitch. Try it all 
ye who are overtired with faces and even 
with friends. At the end of a few weeks 
you will find the " sleaves of care " so well 
knitted together that to return to everyday 
occupation and see again the faces of friends 
will be a real delight. There can be no such 
short method of reducing one's mental tem- 
perature to normal. The long enduring, 
placid, go-on-the-same-century-after-century 
atmosphere of these temples, these tombs, and 
this river scenery is a sweet balm. 



THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 155 

But we know you will not do it in this 
simple, slow way ; tout au contraire. You 
will begin by telegraphing from New York 
for a fast steam dahabeah ; you will take 
one of the record-breaking transatlantic grey- 
hounds ; you will be quickly transferred to 
the London and Oriental express and then to 
the Isis or Osiris, the mail steamers between 
Brindisi and Alexandria. In this you will be 
churned and tumbled about — for the mail 
must arrive on time, and passengers' comfort 
is a second consideration ; and you may roll 
in your berths till your back and sides are 
bruised. Then across Alexandria in a tum- 
ble-down carriage, with two poor old thin 
horses galloping in a weak way under the 
lash of a native driver in red turban and 
white gallabuyah, with a flying shawl 
wrapped about his throat. You will sit on 
the edge of the broad leather seat of the rail- 
road carriage from Alexandria to Cairo and 
try to hurry the train along. Do all you 
can, you cannot assist the engine ; and you 
will not arrive one moment sooner than if 
you curl yourself up in the corner of one of 
these yard-wide leather seats like the of&cial 
opposite, who sits quietly, lets the train take 



156 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

care of itself, while he reads, " A quoi tient 
la superiorite de T Anglo-Saxon." 

Once in Cairo, the scene should be suffi- 
cient to interest and amuse even the nervous 
American ; but after two days he begins 
again to fuss and fume, to feel that he has 
"done Cairo," and must "get on." 

Hats, veils, green-lined umbrellas, medi- 
cines for all kinds of complaints which may 
attack him, guns for the sport he is never to 
come up with, are quickly got together, and 
with dragoman on the carriage box he races 
through the new quarter of Cairo to cross 
the bridge before the midday draw is open. 
Yes, there is the dahabeah moored in the 
distance ; the flag is flying, the stores are on 
board, the easy chairs look inviting to those 
who have time to sit in them ; the crew squat 
like so many vultures along a ledge of the 
bank. The steady pace of the horses is in 
no way relaxed ; across the island, over an- 
other bridge, along the banks, and owner, 
guests, and luggage are soon on board. 
Something has been forgotten ; back flies the 
dragoman to the city as quickly as the same 
horses can take him, and the owner and his 
guests hang over the railing and strain their 



THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 157 

eyes to catch the first glimpse of his returning 
form; for until he comes they cannot start. 

The steam is up, there is a bouquet in each 
lady's hand, — a present from the dragoman, 
— the whistle blows, and the start is made. 

All the beauty of the left bank, the old 
palaces along the river front, the citadel and 
its minarets, the Mokattam Hills, and the 
picturesque old windmills, all are lost on 
these travelers, whose only thought is, not to 
enjoy a leisurely holiday, but to break the 
Nile record. Sakkarah, old Memphis, and 
the tomb of Ti are on the programme for to- 
morrow morning, but all enjoyment is lost 
because of the limited time for sightseeing, 
even in the most cursory manner. 

They race, they tear, the donkey boys cry 
aloud and beat their willing little beasts, the 
dust is choking, and the sun hot. In spite 
of hurry, and a lunch gobbled down, with 
but a glance taken of the marvelous Sera- 
peum, of the prostrate colossal figure, and of 
the old tombs, the whole day is, as they 
graphically declare, " lost " in this excursion, 
and it is almost dark before they feel the 
throb of the propelHng engine of the steam 
dahabeah. There is a most resplendent 



158 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

sunset, but no one has time to look at it ; 
every one is getting ready for dinner, which 
must not be one moment late, though the 
skies are of all the loveliest tints of violet, 
rose, or Nile green. Such skies are not often 
seen even in Egypt, the land of wonderful 
color effects, but no one seems to realize this, 
nor to see the marvelous reflections in the 
river's mirror. 

The fastest Nile steamer is slow in com- 
parison with an ocean steamer, and our 
friends find, by the time they reach Luxor, 
that they have had enough of the Nile. So 
they return to Cairo, having indeed broken 
the record as to speed, but having failed 
to come into touch with anything along the 
way. They have chafed at the loss of a sin- 
gle minute, have not learned the difference 
between a temple and a tomb, and are full of 
wonder at one of their relatives in her wind 
dahabeah, who does not even object to stick- 
ing on a mud-bank. Such is the way not 
to do the Nile, but alas ! a way in which it 
is in these days too often done. 

It is not an unheard-of experience for those 
who start out in one of the sailing dahabe- 
ahs to throw up their contract at the end of 



THE RAMESES LIMITED EXPRESS 159 

a few days, — at no small pecuniary loss to 
themselves, — and return to Cairo by train, 
taking away with them nothing but a recol- 
lection o£ the flies, the heat, the dust, and 
some false " antiquas " palmed off on them 
by traders who have received the things from 
English and German manufactories. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE PHANTOM BOAT 

The air is so mild this evening that we 
give way to the temptation to sit up to see 
the moon rise, which will be about 9.30 to- 
night. During the early days of our voyage 
we had dinner at 7.30, and tried to read 
until our usual bed hour. But the days are so 
short that the Howadji had to shut his paint- 
box a little after five, and it was long to wait 
until 7.30 for dinner ; so the festive repast 
has gradually slipped forward to six ; and we 
count on our daily inspection of the temple 
in all the changes of twilight, and the sight 
of the first stars of the evening shining out. 
Alii watches closely over his master, and by 
the time the first star throws its long light 
across the river — for the stars seem strangely 
near in this latitude — he is sure to appear 
with a lantern to light us down the path, 
while he proclaims the welcome news that 
" dinner most ready." 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 161 

So dinner is at six^ and the Howadji and 
Sitt generally exchange solemn promises to 
tell no one — neither friends nor relatives — 
at what hour the candles for bed are lighted. 
Perhaps, however, some one can guess on read- 
ing that this evening we sit up until the 
extraordinary hour of 9.30. But having 
once witnessed the moon rise in all its glory, 
we quickly slip away to bed, for it does not 
do to burn the candle at both ends even in 
Nubia, and be it remembered we are always 
up before sunrise. 

On this particular evening there is no tell- 
ing exactly how long every one has been 
asleep when the distant throb of a steamboat 
is audible. No post-boat up or down river 
is due ; no excursion boat has been an- 
nounced for to-night ; but nearer and nearer 
come the sounds, and Howadji's sleepy head 
is stuck far enough out of his cabin window 
to see the lights of a steamer as she goes up- 
stream on the other side of the sand-bar, so 
near the opposite shore that it is wonderful 
she does n't run on a sand-bank. We know 
there is scarcely enough water over there for 
our felucca, and wonder whether it may not 
be a phantom ship; but she finds depth 



162 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

enough, and steams on with regular throbs 
of her engines, and, late as it must be, a row 
of lights in her cabin windows. 

Our curiosity but half satisfied, we again 
go to sleep. 

This morning we hear from Alii, who 
knows all, that what we had seen was not 
a wabu (steamboat). There was an eclipse 
of the moon during the night, and the na- 
tives of the opposite shore formed in proces- 
sion, and with lights and beating of great 
tom-toms, marched alongshore to frighten the 
devil, who they said was eating up the moon. 

Their movements and their passing lights 
produced the phantom ship which had sailed 
up river so mysteriously in such shallow 
water. 

Our nearest post-office is a mile up shore 
on the other side of the river ; or more ac- 
curately, sometimes one mile and sometimes 
two, for it is in reality the capacious pocket 
of an old native, trusted by the government. 
We never know exactly where we shall find 
it, when we go over to post letters, unless by 
some chance an unexpected post-boat coming 
along does us the kindness to stop. Such is 
the Feraig post-office, marked with a star on 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 163 

the maps, and relied on by all the surround- 
ing fellaheen. 

How simple certain things which we may 
have dreaded for weeks prove to be. In- 
stead of the men being cast down and mu- 
tinous at not going up to Wady-Halfa, they 
are delighted to hear that we shall soon 
be turning our faces northward and down- 
stream. "Should old acquaintance be for- 
got?" It is apparently to be so on this 
occasion, for the men have said nothing 
more about their friends at Haifa, and the 
cook has never again made a plea to go 
there to see his brother. Perhaps they pic- 
ture to themselves too clearly the many 
days' rowing to get the Terrapin down to 
Shellal, taking the boat through the eddies 
and little whirlpools, where, but for the 
strokes of the oar, she will go roimd and 
round like a lovesick ostrich. They can 
also, perhaps, foresee many of the sand-banks 
on which we are to stick, and from which 
they will have to dislodge this Terrapin of 
ours, and start her once more on her jour- 
ney downstream, only to find her stuck in 
the mud several yards further on; for, of 
course, the water has been steadily decreas- 



164 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

ing these weeks we have been moored at 
Abou Simbel. All that Alii remarks when 
he hears we are to go no further is, " Never 
you mind, all dead here ; " the interpretation 
of which may be that the pleasant crowds 
of Cairo are more to him than all the 
Rameses monuments. 

Miss Edwards mentions that coming down 
they spent eighteen days shilly-shallying, 
dawdling, where they might have done the 
same distance in four. Oh, that better luck 
may attend us ! for if all our time is spent 
in transit, or rather in turning round and 
round, how is Howadji to do the sketching 
of different points which he marked in his 
mental notebook on our way up ? 

We have learned in the last few days that 
we should have had permission from the 
military authorities before sailing up into 
the Soudan. We should n't half object to 
their sending a paddle-wheel steamer to over- 
take us and bring us down, for that would 
give us all the sooner a chance to ask the 
permission which was by inadvertence neg- 
lected. All above the first cataract is under 
military rule, and it behooves one to be very 
particular in getting this permission, even if 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 165 

it is two months late. In a few days the 
Howadji will have finished the painting he 
has laid out for this season at Abou Simbel, 
and then a paddle-wheel steam tug to pull 
us over the sand-bars would be better than 
going it alone like a twirling dervish, co- 
quetting and curtsying with every palm-tree 
along the river bank. 

A mouse is in the stores 1 Sitt, the sail- 
ors, and the cook are all unable to catch 
him in the first efforts ; but he darts here 
and there once too often, and is at last 
caught by the tail. To the surprise of all of 
us, his taU comes off ! So Sitt supposes that 
he will run away and raise a new family of 
tailless or Manx mice. Perhaps he belongs 
to the mouse tribe which cut the Assyrians' 
bow-strings when the Egyptians went out to 
fight the hosts of Sennacherib, king of 
Assyria. We have no bow-strings to nibble, 
but many things that perhaps the mice of 
these days like better. 

The crew's rations are so low that we 
may be implored to give of our plenty, and 
though it is n't in the contract to feed them, 
they would not mind our breaking it in this 
particular. In fact, that contract seems made 



166 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

to be broken. We had supposed that native 
bread could be bought alongshore, but the 
people of this latitude do not seem to eat 
bread, and our servants are really in need of 
their strange flat little loaves, in substance 
more like the Mexican tortillas than any- 
thing Sitt has elsewhere seen. 

The purser of the last up-going mail-boat 
promised to invest some shillings for us in 
bread at Haifa, and to slow up the next day 
on his down voyage to pass the bag over to 
us. The servants were expectant, and were 
the first to hear the steamboat's paddle- 
wheels. Hastily the felucca was manned, 
and rowed out in midstream to meet her; 
but away went flying downstream boat and 
bread and crew's stores. We are at a loss 
to know what has become of the purser and 
his promises. Why such treatment, why such 
disdain? Of course all our guesses prove 
wrong, and we only learn why by accident, 
when some excursionists, who come down- 
stream a few days after, report that the Sir- 
dar, Lord Kitchener, was aboard that steamer, 
having been telegraphed to drop his land 
schemes, his college and city projects at 
Khartoum, and to hurry down to meet cer- 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 167 

tain of Her Majesty's forces, shortly to pass 
through the Suez Canal on their way to the 
Transvaal. Bread for the hungry and mails 
for the stranger were of no account to His 
Majesty the Sirdar. Sitt says she shall not 
feel avenged until she writes to the " Times " 
about it. 

So our sailors eat our stores, and our mail 
is left over for another week, and we make 
many bitter remarks, — for one feels so far 
from enlightenment and civilization when 
mail facilities fail, - — which remarks are borne 
away by the soft, gentle breezes of this sweet 
Nubian air, and never hurt any one or any 
thing. The pocket of the peripatetic post- 
office must be full of letters by this time. 
We shall have a week to add postscripts to 
them, and perhaps before the week is over 
we may be ready to take them downstream 
ourselves. 

There are, after all, a few natives in this 
section ; we had had evidence of their ex- 
istence the night of the moon's ecHpse, but 
more when the excursionists happened along. 
Then from behind almost every stone they 
popped up, fixed hungry eyes upon these 
travelers, followed their every motion, and 



168 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

offered them the veriest rubbish to buy. 
Then when the excursionists had finally left, 
and were only a boat's length away, the 
earth apparently opened and swallowed up 
little ones, big ones, whole families in fact. 
And the resurrection day will be when the 
next excursion comes along. 

We feel like frauds, for when we move 
about there is never a native to dog our 
footsteps, it being believed that we are en- 
gineers, as has been given out. Our Ter- 
rapin is well known as a boat which has 
carried first one party of busy workers and 
then another who were not free with back- 
sheesh. Some of these parties the natives 
have known to count the trees, the huts, and 
the people, and to write it all down in a 
book ; others to plant tall, smooth poles, 
at regular intervals along the bank, with 
never-ending wires. If any luckless native 
should touch one of these poles or interfere 
with these workers, he might be sent in 
chains to Assouan. So any one sailing in 
the Terrapin is to be avoided. For these 
Nubians and Soudanese are like all other 
blacks, — afraid of anything they do not un- 
derstand. Even the Dervishes, on seeing the 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 169 

Scotsmen in their kilts, are reported to have 
said that if women in petticoats fight so 
hard, what must the men of that nation be ? 
Our sailors know too much to mistake the 
Highlanders for women, but they are none 
the less astonished each time that Sitt shows 
any knowledge of sailing or of directing the 
boat, and they call her '' Sitt Reis." 

When the shrill whistle of the incoming 
excursion boat sounded, the old and young 
women, the boys and little girls, all appeared. 
The women seemed to object to close scru- 
tiny. According to Miss Martineau, the vil- 
lages on the opposite shore are noted for the 
production of a special kind of straw mats, 
a supply of which her party bought at ad- 
vantage and used on subsequent journeys 
through the Holy Land. Nothing of the 
sort is offered for sale now, only Soudanese 
weapons ; these weapons from Khartoum are 
the last thing, the dernier cri, as they say in 
Paris when a modiste makes a new depar- 
ture. The trouble with them is that they are 
as new as anything a Parisian modiste can 
make ; their makers have not yet discovered 
that bloodstains upon the blades would 
greatly enhance their value. 



170 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

One woman offered the excursionists a 
sword of rather superior manufacture ; it was 
over a yard long in its red leather scabbard, 
and from the hilt dangled a green silk cord 
and tassel which once belonged to a priest's 
garment. For this weapon she asked two 
pounds, and would not, apparently, take less. 
This sword was the clou of a very motley 
collection of bric-a-brac, which included the 
petrified tooth of a hippopotamus, a fox 
skin, which looked as if it had been the toy 
of the village pups, a small conch-shell, some 
modern glass beads, the key of a sardine 
can, and a little wooden image from a child's 
Noah's ark. These were all offered as " an- 
tiquas." The tooth and fox skin indeed 
looked well worn ; but the sword was of the 
last Manchester pattern, the key of the sar- 
dine can doubtless came from our own boat, 
and the Noah's ark figure dated as far back 
as the time when the last American baby 
went up the Nile. 

One of the women who squatted on the 
bank had the most fanciful of head decora- 
tions ; instead of the customary little pat of 
mud smeared on the end of each of the sev- 
eral dozen small plaits, her little pig-tails 







NUBIAN WOMAN 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 171 

were finished off with a bit of yellow-tinted 
clay. 

The boys squatted along in a row, — sat 
on their heels, as the Egyptians do for hours, 
— as alike as so many sparrows on a tele- 
graph wire. How can even their parents tell 
them one from another ? the mistake must 
often be made of thrashing some one's else 
boy; but the same end is probably at- 
tained if, after so many days, each member 
of the circle has been chastised for a sinning 
brother. 

While the excursionists remained, the na- 
tive crowd stopped all night on the bank, 
huddled closely together, for the night was 
cold. They may have crept away, after all 
the steamboat cabins were dark, to sleep in 
the tombs ; but when the sun rose, there they 
were all in a row, as if the line had not been 
broken all night; and their eyes were fas- 
tened on the stewards as they passed to and 
fro on the decks. Soon we learned what 
these urchins were hoping and waiting for. 
No sooner had the steward with broom and 
brush pushed a lot of refuse overboard than 
into the water the black rascals scrambled, 
regardless of wetting their one and only gar- 



172 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

ment. Every kind of rubbish and garbage 
was in their line ; if a small crust or an 
empty bottle came overboard, they fought 
for it, as they did later for some of the small 
pieces of money tossed to them by the pas- 
sengers. 

All this while, never a native approached 
our boat nor crossed our boundary marked 
with stones, and now that the steamer has 
gone, all have vanished silently. They said 
good-by neither to us nor to our crew, who 
lay about on the bank waiting for their break- 
fast, which the little cook was preparing. 
He is a wonderful boy, this little Nubian 
cook ! He seems always to have plenty of 
everything, plenty of wood, — and oddly 
enough the ends of his wood have been cut 
like our own oven wood which is stored in 
the hold ; we wonder where he finds sawed 
wood in this country. He is a wonderful 
boy ! His bread always gives satisfaction, 
his stews are always as much sought after as 
if they were delicate entremets from Gage or 
Delmonico. He is in every way what may 
be called a success. How few of us can feel 
that of our friends, or even of ourselves. 

The moon was very contrary last night. 



THE PHANTOM BOAT 173 

We who have been many nights at Abou 
Simbel could regard her behavior with more 
equanimity than could the dozen excursion- 
ists who had but one evening to see the great 
temple in her full light. They sat up late 
and patiently watched^ but she was veiled by 
heavy clouds, such as are not seen twice a 
year at Abou Simbel. This morning there 
is none of the brilliant sunshine which has 
marked each day for weeks ; banks of clouds 
far off and heavy, near and opaque, quite 
obscure the sun, which, even now that it is 
midday, resembles the cold, dreary sun of 
northern Europe that for some months 
scarcely deserves the name of sun. 

What is happening to our friends in colder 
climes can be imagined from the drop in the 
mercury from 95° yesterday to 60° at midday 
to-day. 



CHAPTEE XVII 

DISMANTLED 

Yesterday Sitt notified the reis that the 
Howadji's work would soon be finished, and 
he could give orders for dismantling the 
Terrapin, that she might be ready to begin 
her downstream voyage. In twenty minutes 
the men were all as busy as when a com- 
mander orders " all aloft " to prepare for a 
coming gale, and what they did suggested 
to us what pirates and wreckers may have 
done to captured crafts in days gone by. 

The long yard was the first tooth to be 
pulled ; the first one of this gay bird's fea- 
thers to be plucked. Our pennant no longer 
fluttered from the great height, but was 
furled while the great sail was taken down. 
The lower deck became a scene of confusion, 
with cordage strewn about, braces of wood 
to hold the now horizontal instead of upright 
boom, bands of canvas to tie around the 
sail, now that it was down. The figger was 



DISMANTLED 175 

brought forward and rigged to the main- 
mast. All the hatchways of the sailor's deck 
were removed, and behold ! narrow pieces of 
the deck remained, which made narrow seats 
for the rowers ; and as the three feet depth of 
hold was too deep to give the sailors' feet any 
purchase, inclined boards with cleats were 
placed for all the men, — the same methods 
which doubtless served in ancient days, save 
that the rowers (slaves) were then chained to 
their benches. The twenty-feet sweeps were 
soon shipped and tied to the iron rowlocks, 
and heavy weights of stone wrapped with old 
clothes were fastened near the handles of the 
oars, the better to balance these unwieldy 
implements. Tons of stone were piled in the 
bows and the boat " weighed down by the 
head," — why, Sitt is unable to tell, and adds 
this to the list of things about which she must 
ask whenever she meets any one who dares 
affirm that he knows how to sail a dahabeah. 
In the midst of all these proceedings a friend 
from one of the excursion boats near by 
came aboard, and was deeply interested in the 
various original methods of hauling ropes 
and lowering spars, and in each point of 
our houseboat. We explained how in a few 



176 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

hours she had lost her graceful lines, though 
she had become tauter and trimmer. The 
Howadji declared that she most resembled a 
scow, a term to which Sitt took exception. 
But he quoted the dictionary, — " Scow, a 
large flat-bottomed boat ; the word is in use 
in New England," and so Sitt was forced 
to waive her objection, and to acknowledge 
that Howadji remembered his native New 
English, even in the Soudan. 

The reis has left us our upper deck intact, 
and here we lounge to contemplate the many 
changes which have come to us even in an 
hour. 

After that faithless purser steamed by with 
the men's stores, we sent some of the crew in 
the felucca to Haifa to provide themselves 
with needed things, and now we are impa- 
tiently awaiting their return ; for, once back, 
off we will go. The reis declares that they 
will certainly be back " bochra," and since he 
is always right, we surely expect to turn our 
faces northward not later than to-morrow in 
the morning. 

We might have trusted the reis and cooped 
all the chickens when they went to roost that 
evening ; but there is always one thing for- 



DISMANTLED 177 

gotten, and in the morning those chickens 
are out as usual, bright and early. Though 
tame when we first arrived, their weeks of 
freedom have told on them, and they are now 
as wild as young keets when the servants 
try to get them aboard. AUi, the two cooks, 
and one or two of the sailors herd them with- 
out success for a full half hour. Then AUi, 
who is more familiar with donkeys and camels 
than with chickens, gives up the chase, and 
brings Sitt the gun, as if she were in the 
habit of shooting anything which gives any 
trouble. Meanwhile the others succeed in 
cornering them, and in transferring our barn- 
yard to the bow of the boat. 

Now the reis cries, " Felucca, Howadji." 

Yes, there is a boat, but much larger than 
our felucca. 

"Fen?" (where). 

"Kidder" (beyond). 

The Howadji, with a field-glass, is finally 
able to discern a red speck which the reis had 
in fact seen with the naked eye. The water 
glints from the oars as they are raised ; they 
will soon be here, for the little row-boat is 
coming with the current, and we give Reis 
Mohammed one more white chalk-mark. 



178 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

An hour later the men are at the sweeps ; 
even the little cook lends his aid as we swing 
round into the current. The reis takes the 
tiller, of course, and the current takes us. 
The sweeps are but dipped into the water 
now and again to keep our head downstream. 
We stop for no farewell visit to the great 
rock temple which looks so grand in the early 
morning light. We have much enjoyed these 
weeks of adoration of old Abou, and do not 
leave him without a regret. He looks so 
unmoved over our departure that we catch, 
as it were, his spirit, and complacently see 
him grow less hour by hour, and finally dis- 
appear. He knows, however, that we can- 
not get beyond his influence this day, nor for 
many days after. He must know something 
of his power, for why do men come so far 
to see him, and use up all the adjectives of 
the English, French, and German languages 
in the effort fitly to tell of his beauty and 
grandeur ? 

The mercury was but 60° this morning at 
10 A. M. At midday the temperature was 
higher, of course ; but this evening it be- 
came very cold because of a north wind. 
This makes further progress impossible. We 



DISMANTLED 179 

have floated down but ^Ye miles to-day, and 
now lie tied beneath some beautiful palm- 
trees, which strike us anew with their beauty 
after the weeks of gazing upon desert and 
rocks. We have to tell ourselves over and 
over that it is the twenty-fourth of Decem- 
ber, that it is Christmas Eve. Our friends 
in the north are doubtless wading through 
slush and snow to finish their last Christmas 
shopping, while we go ashore to wander 
through groves of beautiful palm-trees, 
through fields over which spread bean-plants 
covered with the largest bean-pods that we 
have thus far seen, more like what the 
peasants of France term horse-beans. Five 
miles above we have heard scarce a bird's 
note, while here swallows are darting across 
our path, larks rising from the fields with 
joyous note, and birds we cannot see sing in 
the luxuriant palm foliage. 

We see many workers in the field, some 
women carrying their infants astride their 
shoulders, some older children very lightly 
clad for so cool a December day. No one 
shows any interest in us, — the interest in- 
deed is all on our side, — no one tries to sell 
us anything, no one begs for backsheesh. 



180 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

The women appear to have spent much time 
on their coiffures, for their hair is in the lit- 
tle classical plaits which can be seen even in 
the old papyri, and beads hang across their 
foreheads. They are better fed and clothed 
than many of the women we have seen on 
this journey, but appear far from really 
human. Superior animals, if you will, but 
so little superior ! They slink away like 
timid dogs, and if we manage to get near a 
group, they crouch down like hinds and look 
up at us strangely from under the rows of 
plaits which swing about their faces. 

In answer to a whole sentence in good 
Christmas Eve Arabic, all that Sitt gets for 
reply is, " Maf eesh Arab," which translated 
freely means that she does n't understand 
Arabic ; and since Sitt has not profited by 
the last few weeks' sojourn to get up a Ber- 
ber vocabulary, she can only rejoin, "Ma- 
feesh Berber." 



CHAPTER XVIII 

CHBISTMAS DAY 

The only thing which Sitt finds in her 
stocking on Christmas morning is a water- 
bug; and a big one indeed^ — as big as a small 
mouse. What a Christmas present it would 
have been for the hedgehog ! but alas 1 for 
him, that hedgehog left us one night about 
a fortnight ago. He had been moved ashore 
on reaching Abou Simbel along with all the 
rest of our live stock, but that night his box 
was left open too long, and " never no more 
hedgehog," said Alii. 

There were as usual a lot of jackal tracks 
the next morning which helped us to im- 
agine his end, and also the feelings of the 
jackal after dining on such a prickly thing ; 
but perhaps the jackal has the digestion usu- 
ally attributed to the ostrich, and does not 
object to dining on a buzz-saw. 

We are to make no twenty miles this 
Christmas Day, for " the north wind doth 
blow." 



182 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Yes ; the wind would be called a norther 
in the Gulf of Mexico, or a mistral in the 
Gulf of Lyons, and all prudent captains 
would tie up. 

Our only pastime is a long walk on shore. 

But we cannot walk all day, and time 
hangs heavily on our hands. We read aloud 
for a while, or discuss the weather, and linger 
as long as possible over our simple meals. It 
is the longest Christmas Day we have ever 
known. The feeling that we are far from 
home and friends and can join in no gath- 
ering round yule log or bowl of egg-nogg 
would be depressing were it not for the con- 
soling fact that in this climate yule logs and 
egg-nogg could not appeal to any one. We 
had taken the precaution to bring along 
some canned Christmas pudding, but we 
hadn't the courage to open a box, having 
already had one experience with these pud- 
dings. It was delicious, to be sure, but we 
had enough for the next day, and the next, 
and the next ; we had it hot, we had it cold, 
but it seemed scarcely to diminish. At last the 
crew finished it, for we never could. Then, 
too, turkey and plum pudding need not only 
their accompanying sauces of ice and snow 



CHRISTMAS DAY 183 

to make them appetizing, but crisp Christ- 
mas air. All these are as necessary as wind 
to a Nile dahabeah. 

Now we are meeting one of those excep- 
tions to the rule that a dahabeah needs 
wind, for while we wish to be let alone and 
drift downstream, Boreas comes upon us and 
holds us just where we are, turning round 
and round in midstream. 

The Howadji thinks he has made a discov- 
ery, — the way to sail a dahabeah as given 
in an old copy of Herodotus, — and proceeds 
to follow it. 

" These vessels are unable to sail upstream 
unless a fair wind prevails, but are turned 
from the shore," he reads. 

" But one does n't have to go back to He- 
rodotus to know that," Sitt interrupts, and 
starts to give her experience as gained in the 
last few weeks. '^ Don't I know " — - 

But the Howadji stops only long enough 
to keep his pipe lighted, then he reads on : — 

" To sail downstream, a hurdle is con- 
structed of tamarisk (^ But where are we to 
get tamarisk ? ' — from Sitt), wattled with 
bands of reeds. (^ But we have n't seen any 
reeds for five hundred miles ') . . . A stone 



184 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

of about two talents in weight is bored 
through the middle. {' But how are we to 
bore any such hole in any such stone ?')... 
The hurdle is fastened to a cable and let 
down at the prow of the vessel to be carried 
on by the stream, and the stone by another 
cable at the stern ; and by this means the 
hurdle, by the stream bearing hard upon it, 
moves quickly and draws along the vessel ; 
but the stone which is dragged at the stern 
and sunk to the bottom keeps the vessel in 
her course." 

" But we have n't made any of these pre- 
parations/' adds Sitt, as she continues to dis- 
parage the trouvaille, for when the Howadji 
becomes experimental, he also becomes dan- 
gerous. 

If Sitt approves this newly found theory, 
he may go so far as to take the hencoop for 
a hurdle, and bore holes in the small boat, 
fill it with stones, and tie it to the stern in- 
stead of the two-talent stone with a hole in 
it. But he is still undecided as to whether 
the foregoing scheme is better than another 
which calls for a log attached to the boat by 
both ends, to make her sail sideways. Since 
Sitt keeps the only log aboard, he cannot 



CHRISTMAS DAY 185 

have that ; and he abandons this scheme, for 
it is n't clear whether the log is to be tied by 
its two ends or to the vessel's two ends. 

At length we are floating down leisurely 
during the late afternoon. In all the glory 
of the setting sun we come within sight of 
Kasrn Ibrim. There is the usual tussle with 
the reis as to where to tie up for the night. 
He is for putting the boat to shore above the 
rocky headland, but we had selected our 
own little haven so long ago as when we 
were on the up journey, — a snug cove to 
the north, cut out, apparently, just to fit the 
Terrapin. The reis declares that no such 
cove exists, we declare that it does ; he says 
we will wreck the boat, we say we will not. 
We carry our point, and all the men being 
put at the oars, we round the headland, and 
make our snug harbor amidst the recrimina- 
tions and maledictions of the old reis. He 
evidently feels that in speaking a tongue un- 
known to us his language is not " actionable." 
The men all look at the Howadji and won- 
der how he knew this cove, — he who tells 
them that this is his first voyage between 
the cataracts. They little know that a 
painter's eye begets a retentive memory. 



186 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

We sit up on deck after dark, wrapped 
in our very thickest traveling rugs, and for 
Christmas carols have the weird Nubian 
songs of the crew to the accompaniment 
of their thoroughly heathen tom-tom. The 
heavens are filled with numberless stars, but 
by far the brightest is one which hangs in 
the East, a reminder of that wondrous star 
of long ago. 



CHAPTER XIX 

A ROBBER STRONGHOLD 

Ever since passing Ibrim on our up-Nile 
voyage, the Howadji has been thinking of 
just how to sketch this bold rock, and now 
that we are tied at its foot, he is up early. 
The sailors have had a long night's sleep 
after their battle with the wind, and masters 
and crew are all astir at sunrise. By seven 
o'clock baths and breakfasts are over, and the 
cook is off in the felucca with a couple of 
sailors to look for fresh eggs in the village 
opposite. Sitt has the reis and several more 
of the crew in readiness to make the ascent 
of the fortress rock, while the Howadji and 
AUi, his fly-driver, have already planted the 
big sketching umbrella a hundred yards up 
the shore, from which a sketch of our boat 
at the foot of the rock, with reflections and 
distant sky, is sure to be made interesting. 

Sitt and her guard start slowly up the 
bold headland. The loose earth, the debris, 



188 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

the potsherds, all slip from under foot, but 
long before the sun is high the little party 
climb into town through a breach in the 
wall, and reach the highest point after sev- 
eral times losing themselves in the narrow, 
winding streets. The breach they climb 
through is an old one, once repaired and re- 
opened. Not even the ghost of an old guard 
checks their entrance. The hill has been 
cut away into many terraces, with steps lead- 
ing from one to another, and each terrace 
is lined with dwellings cut into the rock, 
the sides, back wall, and floors of which are 
of stone, while the roofs must have been of 
durra stalks, thatched doubtless with palm 
pith and leaves. Some of these huts were 
evidently originally for cattle, for the troughs 
for water and food still remain in them. 

The sailors know nothing of the place, and 
can tell Sitt no legends about it. Its history, 
as Strabo and other authorities give it, is 
very broken, and whole centuries are passed 
over without record. Its position of natural 
strength is so great that it is easy to imagine 
it as the stronghold of first one tribe, then 
another, of one conquering general after 
another, through one century, then another. 



A ROBBER STRONGHOLD 189 

Petronius, according to Strabo, was here, 
and after taking it, repaired his own ravages, 
and placed a garrison of over four hundred 
men to hold it. To get to it, he must have 
passed over the same sand hills on which 
Cambyses's army was overwhelmed by a whirl- 
wind, — what we now call, doubtless, a sand- 
storm. He seems to have been little daunted 
by its natural strength or by its garrison, for, 
as Strabo continues, he pushed on further 
south to Gebel Addeh, the royal seat of Can- 
dace, the masculine Ethiopian queen who had 
lost one eye, and razed this stronghold to the 
ground, though it had been left in charge of 
her own son. Napata, as her royal seat was 
then called, was doubtless the rock fortress 
of Addeh, whence we had looked almost as 
far up river as Wady-Halfa. Of the two for- 
tresses, Petronius must have deemed Ibrim 
the most impregnable, for he abandoned the 
other in its favor, and left here his four hun- 
dred tried troops with the year's provisions. 
Of the size of the fort we can form some 
idea from the fact that he sent one thousand 
prisoners to Csesar after selling many others, 
along with booty of various kinds. 

That Ibrim was therefore in excellent con- 



190 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

dition in Petronius's time, we may feel sure, 
from this account of Strabo's. It is often 
alluded to as a Saracen stronghold ; and as 
the word Saracen is derived from saraka, to 
plunder, to steal, it may have been a kind of 
robber-sheik retreat, whence they descended 
upon and pillaged the country far and near. 
It was also in the possession of the Bosnians, 
or European Turks, then of the Mamelukes, 
who were finally driven from even this eyrie 
by Ibrahim, son of the great Pasha, Moham- 
med Ali, the founder of the present reigning 
Khedival house of Egypt. 

There must have been through those 
troublous ages thousands of people — wives, 
children, and slaves — Hving along these hill- 
sides, who, in times of attack, would perhaps 
fly for refuge to the top of the hill, and into 
the fortress, there to aid in throwing stones 
and missiles upon the heads of the attack- 
ing forces. From the river side their fort 
was quite impregnable, and on the south 
side only four-footed animals could ascend, 
so that there were but two steep sides to be 
guarded. 

The Howadji's sketch is postponed by the 
wind, or is it because of his desire to push 



A ROBBER STRONGHOLD 191 

up into this old Ibrim ? He is determined 
to enter through the old sally-port, into which 
many great boulders have been thrown, or 
fallen of their own weight. How has the 
ornamentation on the top of the entrance 
of the sally-port escaped destruction ? In the 
general ruin, how has this disk, supported by 
sacred asps, escaped even a scratch ? The 
mouldings are many of them broken, the 
doorposts are notched and cracked, but the 
central decoration of the lintel — an orna- 
ment at least three feet in diameter — is per- 
fect. The sandstone from which it is carved 
is soft, and the ground around is strewn with 
hard rocks and boulders, yet there is not a 
nick in this carving. The vandals of this 
land must surely all be dead ; and excursion- 
ists have not yet begun their depredations 
here. 

By mounting upon the piles of boulders, 
the Howadji and his shadow, AUi, clamber 
up through the small aperture, clinging to 
the lintel of the door as they squeeze through. 
Within this port are chambers, evidently pre- 
pared for the storing of the rocky boulders 
to be thrown on assailants below. Here is 
the only wood about the place, huge palm 



192 OUE HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

trunks built into the walls to brace and sup- 
port them^ and provide a foothold for the 
defenders above on the battlement. These 
logs are so embedded that neither time nor 
searchers after firewood have been able to 
dislodge them. To remove the debris which 
rests on them and take them out from above 
would be the labor of Hercules ; to remove 
them from below would require a Samson to 
hold up, rather than to tear down, the col- 
umns and great walls. 

Where are the skeletons of those in armor 
who defended this sally-port? Do they lie 
buried under the debris, or are they in dis- 
tant ports, the relics of those sent in chains 
along with thousands of prisoners to Caesar ? 

We spent all the forenoon wandering 
through the streets, and over the broken 
walls of the ruined habitations. Many of 
these walls are of dressed sandstone, and 
here and there is a granite column with 
Coptic cross, or a carved capital. These de- 
tached capitals look like small altars. They 
would make picturesque supports for benches, 
or tubs of flowers, — if the Exploration So- 
ciety would allow them to be put to any such 
base use. 



A ROBBER STRONGHOLD 193 

All is now confusion ; remains of one 
epoch lie scattered with remains which ante- 
date them by hundreds of years ; ghosts of 
Romans, Bosnians, Arabs, and Mamelukes 
roam about o' nights picking out broken 
rehcs of their several occupations. 

The view on all sides is unsurpassed. The 
river Hes hundreds of feet below; across it 
stretches the Libyan desert back of the band 
of cultivation which reaches along the river- 
bank. Silence reigns over all. In all this 
ruin we see neither snake nor scorpion nor 
bat, nor even their dry bones. The wind 
has swept away every vestige of dust, and 
the town market-place is as clean as if swept 
every morning. 

The sailors amuse themselves with a game 
played with small stones which they stand in 
holes cut in the top of one of the fallen cap- 
itals. We do not stop to see its outcome, for 
we are attracted by a number of red stone 
archways which show up round the corner of 
one of the nearer ruins, — arches made of 
the same red stone as the lintel of the sally- 
port. Many of them have been whitewashed, 
but the whitewash has partly worn ofP, giv- 
ing them the appearance of great age. Here 



104 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

and there upon them are rosettes carved in 
relief — standing out with a relief of a couple 
of inches. 

Sitt feels that she must have one of those 
rosettes. There can foe no harm in removino^ 
one, for Ibrim is not on the list of the mon- 
uments of Nubia. Few visitors take the 
trouble to climb this rock which to us is so 
full of fascination. Perhaps if we carry off 
a rosette as a sample, it may play the same 
part as the Elgin marbles, and arouse new 
interest in the spot. How to cut it off, how- 
ever, is the question. An offer of backsheesh 
has a great effect : instantly a sailor is off to 
the boat like the arrow from a bow, then 
straight over the rocky descent as if it were 
but ten paces away. He is back in an in- 
credibly short time, with a couple of table- 
knives. These Howadji, of inventive genius, 
hacks with a piece of flint into miniature saws, 
good for sawing the soft sandstone. The men 
pile stones one upon another until they have a 
cairn much more convenient than any ladder. 
Each man takes his turn sawing; little by 
little the knives cut away ; the soft, red sand 
powders the faces and heads of the blacks, 
and soon gives them a weird appearance. 




H>. 



COPTIC ROSASSE FROM KASRN IBRIM 



A ROBBER STRONGHOLD 195 

As the incision deepens, the men grow more 
and more like pink Indians ; instead of turn- 
ing "a black man wl^ite/' as Kipling has 
it, this industry turns him red. Before mid- 
day we have dislodged the little rosette, and 
have retired with our trophy from the now 
very hot sunlight to the cool shades of our 
houseboat saloon. Here, quietly reading up, 
we find that barbarians overwhelmed Ibrim 
in the third century a. d., and that in the 
sixth century all the barbarians were con- 
verted to Christianity, which gradually spread 
throughout Nubia. Our rosette bearing the 
Coptic cross and several mystic initials be- 
longs to this date. 

The little cook was not in the backsheesh 
deal, being absent when the offer was made to 
the men, and he seems to want to distinguish 
himself in some way. So before we descend 
from the height, he beckons us to follow him 
over rocks and stones, up old stairs and down 
others, until he stands over a wide opening, 
and down this he points. It is a hole about 
twenty feet deep, and on shading one's eyes 
not only bones but skeletons and parts of 
skulls can be seen. The httle cook climbs 
into the aperture and avows that there are 



196 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

bones as far as he can see in covered ditches 
extending from it. He urges us to come 
down to assure ourselves of this. But we 
have had enough experience for one morn- 
ing, and in spite of the assistance proffered 
by the crew, we are obliged to disappoint 
Httle kuz ; but nevertheless he comes in for 
a modicum of the backsheesh. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 

We untie in the early afternoon, hoping 
to float down a few miles before dark ; but 
the wind stiffens instead of dropping, and 
we merely drift to the other side of the river, 
where we again tie up. There is no use try- 
ing to go farther in the teeth of such wind ; 
if it blows for a week, for a week we must 
remain tied to the bank. Above us is a neat, 
tidy village, where we see many women but 
no men. The women are good-looking, and 
well made. Among them we notice one who 
is really beautiful, — not so dark as the others, 
with oval face, brilliant, well-cut eyes, the 
whites of them as white as her teeth, which 
are like a row of pearls, and a long, straight 
nose. On her forehead she wears a beaten 
gold pendant, and around her neck a bead 
necklace, from which depend a dozen or 
more thin gold coins ; in her nose she has no 
ring. She wears a long outer garment which 



198 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

trails behind her, and her carriage is that of 
a queen. She is like one of those wall deco- 
rations in the great temple of Abou Simbel, 
more beautiful than almost any other in 
Egypt. She is conscious of her beauty, this 
child of the desert, and will not allow us to 
approach too near her, but smiles at us over 
the shoulders of her companions. She is 
certainly neither a Nubian, nor a Soudanese ; 
whence has she inherited such grace, such 
coquettish little ways? We ask AUi to 
find out how old she is ; but he only re- 
plies, " She not know how old she is," which 
brings to our recollection the fact that these 
people never know their ages. Soudanese 
children found on the fields of battle, or after 
the fights, and taken into English families 
to be trained, have birthdays assigned to 
them, which their masters note like those of 
other children in the house. A physician 
pronounces when a youth reaches the proper 
age to be drafted into the army. He is then, 
in the eyes of the law, eighteen years old, 
and has reached man's estate. 

We notice that the girls of apparently 
about twelve in this village — which appears 
to be inhabited by females only — have their 



THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 199 

noses freshly pierced ; they are awaiting, 
each of them, the choice of a husband who 
will put, in place of the wisp of straw they 
now wear, a silver or brass ring. Sitt fan- 
cies that these rings are to resign them, 
when once married, to being led about by 
the nose. 

Strabo cites that the women of this region 
wear rings in the upper lip, but the fact is 
that the ring worn in the nose is of such size 
that it hangs far down upon the upper lip. 

It is pathetic how soon the youth of these 
women is gone, how soon they are carrying 
one tiny child tucked away under the arm, 
or sitting on the left shoulder, with several 
others hanging on to their long robes. All 
the native women wear veils or gowns trailing 
behind them for two reasons, — to destroy 
their footprints, lest some one should fall in 
love with the impressions of their feet, which 
are remarkably small; and to prevent evil 
spirits from tracking them to their homes. 
They often have their shoulders and breasts 
fully exposed, but continue to wear garments 
trailing in the sand. 

We are told some story about these wo- 
men being the wives of men who are work- 



200 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

ing way down in Cairo, who keep them well 
supplied with this world's goods. Indeed, 
there appears to be no necessity for their 
working for themselves. Even their finger- 
nails and toe-nails are well trimmed and dyed 
with henna, and the only point of neglect 
seems to be, as usual, the children's eyes. 

In one or two of the villages we have 
noticed a primitive effort at decoration in the 
display of white china plates stuck on the 
mud-house fronts ; but within the huts none 
of the comforts of chair or bed. The beauty 
whom we have seen to-day interests us more 
than all else here, and we regret that we shall 
float away when the wind dies down and 
never know aught of what she is or what 
becomes of her. 

The crew all seem as interested as we in 
this Amazon settlement ; they chaff and gig- 
gle with one another, and show signs of 
Nubian flirtations ; so wind or no wind, we 
must move off half a mile more to keep them 
from the snares of these modern sirens. 

Sitt is beginning to learn something prac- 
tical about sailing a dahabeah. It has been 
observed that when going upstream, if the 
boat runs on a sand-bar, the down current 



THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 201 

aids greatly in floating it again, but when 
heading downstream, if we run aground the 
river does its utmost to complicate the situ- 
tion by quickly washing around us a lot of 
mud, which thickens and deepens faster than 
one would think possible, and greatly de- 
creases the chances of easy escape. If the 
houseboat goes on a mud-bar sidewise, we 
may be held all winter. Therefore every 
effort is made by reis and crew to keep her 
from going broadside on. 

The Terrapin has in the last two days 
more than justified her name; at the best 
she has but crawled along. Occasionally she 
has stopped to back on the sand-bar; and 
now she hes alongshore, blown here by a 
hurricane, — not wrecked like the two ghia- 
shas that Reis Mohammed loves to tell us 
of, but simply blown against the soft mud- 
bank. Were there rocks here, we should soon 
have a hole stove in our bottom. But some- 
times for miles along this Nile there appears 
scarcely a jagged rock ledge, such is the 
quantity of deposit continually brought down 
by the water. It is like putting down straw 
for the dahabeahs and ghiashas to rest on. 

Reis has his story of the two wrecked 



202 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

ghiashas in readiness as a warning whenever 
we wish him to sail after dark; and since 
sundown in this month of December is at 
5 p. M., the temptation to sail on is great 
indeed. 

The Howadji and Sitt walk the upper deck 
by turns on the lookout for the first sign that 
the wind is abating ; at length, by two in the 
afternoon, having seen no sign, they both lose 
patience and summon the crew from their 
eternal siesta. To the oars ! And in spite of 
wind and unwilling helpers we make four 
miles before dark. We are again in that un- 
lucky stretch between Derr and Korosko, — 
the ten-mile stretch which took us all of 
three days to make in going up, — and are 
for pushing on after dark, but the timid reis 
is for tying up to the bank ; and so, since we 
had carried our point and made that four 
miles, we decide that it is best to humor the 
old fellow. By seven in the evening he and 
all the crew are wrapped in their poor little 
thin blankets, and as we observe them we 
feel, as we have felt before, that it is our 
duty to hire a large ghiasha and stock it 
with blankets, one for every man who sails 
on the Nile. But our efforts might be in 



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THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 203 

vain, — like those of a club of benevolent 
ladies in St. Augustine, Florida, one season, 
who met each day to work for the Indians 
on the reserve. Those Indians were without 
shirts ; so these benevolent ladies stitched 
and hemmed, hemmed and stitched, till they 
had no fewer than twelve dozen white shirts 
to distribute. These were duly apportioned 
among the bucks, who, apparently at a loss 
to know the proper use of cotton shirts, 
staked them in their daily games of cards, 
until before many weeks one Indian held the 
entire twelve dozen. 

Joking aside, it is surprising how scant 
the clothing of peasants and sailors is, and 
how little they appear to suffer, while Euro- 
peans shiver in good merino underwear and 
Scotch wool clothing. Sitt has heard but 
one of the crew sneeze in six weeks, while we 
have often felt as wheezy as in a London fog. 
None of these sailors have colds, though Alii 
from Cairo may be said to have the grippe, 
but the Howadji is curing him with vigorous 
applications of mustard plasters and hot 
whiskey. These remedies are both new to 
AUi, who remarks : " Both alike — outside ; 
inside — like fire, never you mind." 



204 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NH^E 

Howadji and Sitt take regular watches on 
deck ; when either one paces up and down 
like a veritable sentry, a few miles is accom- 
plished with difficulty ; as soon as both dis- 
appear, the crew give themselves over to nap- 
ping. With the exercising of great energy 
we have some days floated and rowed as 
much as ten miles. 

Here we are on a sand-bank again ! First 
the bow slips on as gently as you will, and 
the helmsman, in a wild effort to swing her 
off, ports his helm with a vengeance, and 
instead of our making one of those dervish- 
like whirls with the stern, to drag the bow 
after it, we go side and stern both on, while 
the bow plants itself deeper and deeper. 
The houseboat seems to be trying to turn 
from a Terrapin to a mud turtle. Everything 
in the cabin is upset ; a pretty howdy-do ! 

Only when the Terrapin is high and fast 
on a bar do we realize the utter ignorance of 
these sailors of all modern methods of apply- 
ing force. Brute force is their only idea; they 
appear to understand nothing about pulleys 
or levers. There is not the smallest windlass 
on board, and to pull the boat off this special 
bar they are for tying ropes to the rudder- 



THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 205 

post, which will come out of her sooner than 
she will come out of the mud. We do not 
yet know why our bow is piled high with 
stones, unless it be to make it stick rather 
than the rudder, or perhaps to lift the rud- 
der higher in the water. We float down, 
generally, stern foremost ; if we come into a 
shallow, the rudder slips over, and we never 
know of the bar until the whole length of 
our Terrapin lies flat in the mud. The sail- 
ors' favorite method of working off a bar is 
to get into the water up to their arm-pits, 
put their backs against the boat, and push 
and yell for an indefinite time, and some- 
times send for a neighboring sheik to bring 
his people, who then lift one, lift all, with 
shrieks and imprecations from the fellaheen. 
As yet we have not sent for any sheiks, but 
may before we are out of the woods — that 
is, the mud. Our men are able to sing and work 
and work and sing, — twice the allowance of 
singing to the measure of work. When at their 
oars, they give three distinct pulls for one 
stroke, then before taking another stroke there 
is a season of shouting twice as long as that 
of pulling. By the time the boat has lost all 
its headway, they pull again. When we stop 



206 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

but for five minutes to mail a letter, it means 
utter demoralization of the sailing for several 
hours. 

Thus we come to Korosko, the scene of our 
mutiny. When we were last here, we were 
told a wonderful tale of a road, — not the 
caravan route, which is much shorter than 
the circuitous river route for Khartoum, but 
a road which disappears into the Arabian 
desert, goes no one can tell where, but which, 
legend says, leads to a rich and fertile country, 
well watered and well peopled, and where, 
moreover, the inhabitants pay no taxes. 

We listen to these tales and beheve this old 
route may not be a fabulous one, but one 
which led to the forgotten gold mines of the 
Pharaohs and the Ptolemys ; a track of such 
interest that a quotation from the " Egyptian 
Gazette " of this year may awake renewed 
interest, for the wealth of old Egypt was too 
vast to be the outcome only of agricultural 
schemes. 

" The outward and visible signs of the wealth which 
poured into ancient Egypt from these mines still exist 
in Nubia. The many tourists who extend their Nile 
trip to the Second Cataract are amazed at the enor- 
mous quantity of ruins that line the banks of the river 



THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 207 

from Assouan to Wady-Halfa. In Upper Egypt there 
is nearly always a comparatively broad strip of culti- 
vable land, whose extraordinary fertility could have 
supported a population sufficiently numerous to people 
the cities and fill the temples. Above the First Cata- 
ract the aspect of the country changes. The natives 
eke out a miserable sustenance from the niggard earth. 
The little piece of green between river and desert often 
dies away altogether, and could no more have supported 
a large number of inhabitants in the days of Rameses 
the Great than it can now. Yet the masses of ruins 
show that Nubia was once a thriving and populous land, 
and the greatest of Egypt's old rulers made it the site 
of one of the most stupendous architectural effects that 
the Pharaohs have bequeathed to us. The former pros- 
perity of Nubia was solely due to the mines in the east- 
ern desert. Although their situation was much nearer 
the coast than the Nile, the trade route between them 
and Egypt lay through the desert to the river, as in 
those early ages the navigation of the Red Sea had not 
been yet attempted by the Egyptians. The Nubian 
valley was entirely dependent on this lucrative carry- 
ing trade, and when the sea route was discovered, it at 
once lapsed into the state which it now presents. 

" These mines were worked from the very dawn of 
history. There is evidence of the existence of an 
aboriginal race of negro miners, who extracted the 
precious ore even before the Egyptian appeared. The 
Pharaohs were ever keen in exploiting the mineral 
wealth of their realms, and as early as the end of the 
Third Dynasty, the mines in the Sinaitic Peninsula 
were worked. There is no proof that the mines on the 



208 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Red Sea coast were known to the Egyptians until the 
Fifth Dynasty, about 2500 b. c, but from that date 
they were worked incessantly for almost three thousand 
years ! We know that in the reign of Thothmosis III. 
the yearly output was equivalent to £137,000, accord- 
ing to Dr. Wallis Budge's interpretation of the hiero- 
glyphics. This is a far more likely figure than the 
£70,000,000, which Sharpe, with all due reserve, states 
was annually obtained from the Nubian gold mines. 
We can still see Pharaoh offering the gold to Amun- 
Ra on the walls of the Memnonium, and the hieroglyph- 
ics on a little rock-built temple near the mines say that 
Sethos, the father of Rameses the Great, discovered 
mines with the * alertness of an eagle's eye.' Through- 
out the long ages of ancient Egyptian history there 
are abundant proofs that the mines were worked con- 
tinuously, and during the Ptolemaic age the yield 
was almost as large as in earlier times. Berenice was 
founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, and its advanta- 
geous situation as the port for the transport of the gold 
to the Isthmus greatly facilitated the export of the 
mines' riches to Alexandria. Although the strength of 
the country was sapped and its trade was fast decay- 
ing during the close of the Ptolemaic epoch, work at 
the mines was never relaxed, and it was only this gold 
that preserved the decrepit dynasty for so long from 
the inevitable collapse. 

"We find descriptions of the mines and of the 
system of mining there in various ancient authors, such 
as Photius and Diodorus Siculus, and the latter has pre- 
served a detailed description of the mines from a lost 
work by the geographer Agatharcides. The piteous 
accounts they give of the miner's lot bear a curious re- 



THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 209 

semblance to the stories that used to be current about 
the sufferings of the Russian exiles in Siberia. The 
language these writers use is all the more noticeable, as 
sympathy had not become a fashionable sentiment two 
thousand years ago. The passage wherein Agathar- 
cides contrasts the lives of the wretched half -naked 
women and children who extracted the precious metal 
with the luxurious existence of the royal sybarites, 
decked with the products of the former's toil, has a 
curiously modern philanthropic ring about it, and is an 
interesting locus classicus for the transition from the 
pagan to the Christian standpoint. The slaves worked 
under the lash. Men, women, and children were 
chained together in gangs and guarded by soldiers, 
specially selected from those troops who were ignorant 
of the language spoken by the miners. The stone 
huts of these unfortunate people still exist. In one 
mining centre every ravine is filled with hundreds of 
these little dwellings, which have sheltered generations 
of hopeless toilers. The details of the gold mining 
process employed are given by Agatharcides, who was 
perhaps an eye-witness of the scenes and sufferings he 
describes. 

" The last vestiges of the ancient miners before Islam 
overspread Egypt are the ruins of a little church in 
Wady Sikait. This interesting relic of the Christian 
miners of the fourth century was discovered by Mr. 
Floyer. The apse, the niches in the walls, the shape 
of the windows, and the absence of a portico clearly 
mark it as a Christian place of worship, and these 
architectural features are the more noticeable by com- 
parison with the ruins of three Grseco-Roman temples 
in the same valley. In the fifth century the mines 



210 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

were deserted. The philosopher Olympiodorus solaced 
himself for the rebuff that he had met with in his efforts 
to found a Peripatetic School at Alexandria by travel- 
ing in out-of-the-way parts of Egypt. After visiting 
some of the oases in the Libyan desert, he was very 
eager to see the ancient mines on the Red Sea coast, 
but was obliged to give up the attempt owing to the 
difficulties of the journey. If there had been any 
means of communication by land or sea between the 
mines and Egypt in that age (circa 450 A. d.), the 
journey would have been a very simple matter, but in 
the general collapse of the forces of civilization the 
mines were perforce neglected. They could only be 
worked by the State. A large garrison was always 
needed to guard against the incursions of the wander- 
ing Arabs and to overawe the enslaved miners. As 
the central authority became more and more relaxed, 
men could no longer be spared for the outskirts of the 
Empire, so for four hundred years the very existence 
of these once famous gold fields was lost to the world. 
Then for a brief season they became the theatre of one 
of the most extraordinary epochs of butchery and crime 
ever known to history, only to fade again into the limbo 
of romance for another thousand years. 

" The story of the life and adventures of Abderrah- 
man el-Omary is given in Quatremere's translations 
from Arabic historians. It is so thronged with inci- 
dent that only the briefest outline is possible. He was 
born in the early part of the ninth century. His an- 
cestry was among the most illustrious in Islam, for his 
great-great-grandfather was the Caliph Omar. After 
the best education that a Moslem of that age could 
obtain at Mecca and Kairwan, he went to Cairo, and 



THE ROAD TO THE GOLD MINES 211 

it was here that he heard the tales of the wonderful 
mines that were lying neglected in the solitudes of the 
Arabian desert. The wild Arabs of the wilderness 
still came upon casual mementoes of the former wealth 
of this deserted *E1 Dorado,' and probably Omary's 
greed was aroused by some stray specimens that had 
found their way down the Nile. Toulon, whose 
mosque is well known to every visitor to Cairo, then 
ruled Egypt for the Sultans of Bagdad, and Omary 
had to use great circumspection in order to avoid ex- 
citing his suspicion. He secretly fitted up a filibus- 
tering expedition, and gave out that he intended to 
conduct trading operations on a large scale in Upper 
Egypt and Nubia. At that time Assouan was the 
southern frontier of Islam, for Christianity had not 
been utterly swept from the Upper Nile. Three little 
Christian kingdoms lay between the First Cataract and 
the junction of the White and Blue Niles. The south- 
ernmost of these remnants of African Christianity had 
its capital on the site of the modern Khartoum. 

" Omary's seizure of the mines, and his endeavors to 
open a line of communication with the river, brought 
him into continual conflict with these powers, and his 
subsequent career is one long tale of prosperous mining 
and ruthless slaughter. The history of his series of 
wars with Zacharias, King of Makorra, the modern 
Dongola, and his successor, Kirky, shows that these 
Ethiopian Christians were not a whit inferior to their 
Moslem foe in cruelty and double-dealing. Although 
Omary had only one short spell of peace, he never let 
go his hold on the gold fields. Mine after mine was 
reopened, and so numerous were his slaves that sixty 
thousand camels were employed in conveying provisions 



212 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

from Assouan to the mining district. Even this regu- 
lar supply did not suffice, and huge quantities of corn 
had to be exported from Egypt by sea. Toulon, who 
had now become the first independent Mohammedan 
sovereign of Egypt, grew alarmed at the serious drain 
that this entailed on the corn supply of his subjects. 
He put a veto on the export, but it was soon removed 
when he learned that it would necessitate a war with 
the one hundred thousand picked warriors of this Gold 
King of the East. Omary was killed in the height of 
his power while avenging his brother's murder. On 
his death the sources of his enormous wealth were again 
forgotten, and from that day to this the* gold mines 
have been left unheeded and forlorn. The life of their 
latest exploiter is well worth reading in Quatrem^re's 
pages, for in the whole history of the race for wealth 
the character of this little known millionaire stands 
forth supreme in its utter ruthlessness. The glimpses, 
too, that we obtain of the far-off Christian kingdoms 
of the Soudan are very curious. But throughout this 
neglected page of history the carnage is so excessive, 
and the object so sordid, that the reader's interest in 
the story gives way to a feeling of extreme weariness. 
The obvious reflection of Omary's success is that if he 
could obtain such wealth from the mines that he was 
able to overawe the ruler of Egypt, and to rise to al- 
most sovereign power, who knows what resources these 
gold fields still contain, for they have never been 
worked since his death ? " 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE LIONS OF SABUAH 

The bete noir of the Terrapin has been 
the old man with the mended leg", or rather 
the man whose leg was never mended ; he is 
so black that we have nicknamed him Azib 
(the widower). Alii has made the discovery 
that all the crew belong to the same family, 
are indeed near relatives of the reis. Old 
Azib is the uncle of Awasa, little kuz is 
Keis Mohammed's son, Dahab is his nephew, 
and another is his sister's son. And the real 
reason why we have not the allotted number 
of men in the crew must be that the reis's 
relatives gave out. If, like Kameses, old 
Keis Mohammed had had one hundred and 
eleven sons and sixty-seven daughters, per- 
haps he would have left old " game leg " at 
home to look after the cat which was put on 
shore after the first night out, all through 
which she mourned either for her relatives 
which are no more, or relatives still to come. 



214 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Old Azib is always in trouble ; the wind is 
always in the east for the old fellow. Again 
to-day we have a scene because of his age 
and disability. Age in these old countries 
is always revered^ and it is only when Ameri- 
cans appear that there is any question of 
hurrying the aged natives. Because he is 
old and feeble, Azib is counted as the port 
stroke, for as our men sit in two even rows, 
we have two stroke oars instead of one. So 
you may guess how much trouble we have. 

Behind old Azib sits a strong young Nu- 
bian, who is forever digging him in the back 
because he either cannot or will not recover 
quickly enough. " And this is how the row 
began." The first we know of it is a free 
fight going on amid the shrieks of the reis, 
who, making matters worse, rushes from the 
tiller and belabors the combatants. 

" Will you let the boat be wrecked ? " he 
shouts over and over again, and with reason, 
for we are in a swift current which is carry- 
ing us on to a very visible bank. 

Sitt seizes the tiller and swings on it as 
best she can, while Howadji grabs Reis Mo- 
hammed, orders him back to the helm, and 
then puts in a few blows himself; but he 



THE LIONS OF SABUAH 215 

finds such resistant muscle and flesh that he 
feels as if he were pommeHng a deal door. 

The men howl and call at one another like 
shouting dervishes, while AUi sticks close to 
his master to ward off any stray blow, repeat- 
ing in his ear the while, " Never you mind, 
never you mind." But the Howadji is not 
likely to get hit unless by a badly aimed blow 
intended for some one else, for no matter 
what may be the stress of circumstances, a 
black never hits a white man. 

At length things quiet down, and we con- 
clude that that idea of chaining the rowers 
to the benches was not haK bad. 

Now the bete noir was entirely at fault, 
but the young sailor who began the fight 
appears very contrite as the day goes on. He 
brings Sitt some sprays of blossoms in the 
afternoon, and, finding that she is pleased, 
goes for more, which he plants in an old 
rusty kerosene can with a lot of Nile mud, 
and brings to the upper deck. It is a very 
small spray, and the can which holds it is 
unlovely, but Sitt has not the heart to order 
it down ; so there it stays day after day, the 
can leaking a little on the deck, drying up in 
the sun. When the heart is right, how can 



216 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

one question the outward show and appear- 
ance ? — as in the case of an old Virginia 
darkejj who, though mourning her dead 
daughter, wore the brightest of dresses, and 
when asked by Sitt, — '' Mammy, are n't you 
going to put on black for your daughter ? " 
— replied, "No, honey; no, honey; but the 
Lord himself knows how black my heart is." 

We slip our mooring just as the day is 
breaking, for we must make our distance 
before the wind rises ; and the wind, when it 
does n't blow all the time, never forgets to 
rise at 10 a. m. 

At 4 A. M. the Southern Cross is bril- 
liant, and as we gaze upon it we begin to 
understand why its praises have been so 
sounded and sung. Lest you may think that 
4 a. m. is a favorite time of rising with the 
master of the Terrapin, it may be well to 
note how easy it is, when stretched beside a 
cabin window, to take a look out for steam- 
boats and constellations, without rising. It 
is not only a diversion, but, cut off as we 
are from subjects of worldly interest, it has 
become really exciting. 

By nine this morning Sitt is booted and 
spurred — that is, in pith hat and short 







m 



I'M 



LIONS OF SABUAH 



THE LIONS OF SABUAH 217 

skirt — to mount the bank to the ruins of 
Sabuah (the lions). 

The position of the temple in a sand plain 
appeals to us ; the lions couchant with their 
human heads, of which, to be sure, but two 
or three can be seen above the sand, some- 
how accentuate the surrounding desolation 
and loneHness, which is appalling. The hi- 
eroglyphics, like many on the other temples 
(for which Sitt refers all who are interested 
to Dr. Budge's guide), tell of valiant deeds 
and marvelous conquests and acquisition of 
territory by the great Kameses. They tell, 
too, of pillars of the temple decorated with 
costly stones and gems. So fairy-like is the 
account that Sitt finds herself looking down 
into the sand, as she walks or wades through 
it, wondering if all the jewels of which it tells 
have been already found and carried off, or 
if some still remain as proof to the incredu- 
lous that the story was not written by Grimm 
or Hans Andersen. 

Though we find no jewels here, we have 
seen some beautiful pebbles on certain mid- 
stream banks along which we have passed. 
So polished are some from rolling over and 
over for hundreds of years that they might 



218 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

be strung as a necklace, had nature bored as 
well as polished them. 

Although we cannot see much of these 
Sabuah ruins, for the sand has reburied 
them, what is visible grows upon us through 
every moment of examination. 

That the inscriptions on certain ruins are 
so much more satisfactory than on others is 
due to perfection in cutting and the quality 
of the sandstone. Much of this stone is as 
soft in many places as cheese, and can even 
be scraped away with a finger-nail. Five 
thousand years makes a difference even in a 
piece of stone. As the builders of the new 
barrage at Assouan aver, universally good 
stone is not to be found even in the cataract, 
and Assouan, which furnished that pink 
granite for so many years, is jealous of hav- 
ing the remainder carried away ; so she now 
hides her good under much that is inferior 
and worthless, and sends the engineers far 
afield before giving up her best. 

In one of the chambers of this temple of 
Sabuah the figures of certain gods can still 
be traced, though the figure of Saint Peter, 
with key in hand, has been painted over 
them. This figure cannot have been exe- 



THE LIONS OF SABUAH 219 

cuted by a native artist, for the key in the 
Saint's hand is copied after keys of foreign 
make, and not after the strange, square keys 
of ancient Egyptian days ; nor is it like the 
stick, with hard wood points or cross-ties, used 
by many a native. But the decorations may 
perhaps be better studied in a guide-book 
than under the sand which covers them. 

Can desolation so great and ruin so com- 
plete ever overtake the great cathedrals 
which grace our northern homes, and which 
are such objects of care and veneration ? we 
wonder. The thought is a sad one. Yet 
why not ? Things crumble in the cold stone 
belts of northern Europe and America five 
hundred times faster than in this dry air of 
Nubia. 



CHAPTER XXII 



THE HOWADJi's BAD HABIT 



While we have been examining the temple 
of the lions, the villagers from hard by have 
gathered about us, and as the Howadji makes 
a sketch we receive more attention than the 
natives heretofore have given us. They have 
become less and less shy as the sketch has 
progressed, and when it is completed they 
accompany us back to the boat, while AUi, 
who constitutes himself a rear guard, walks 
between them and us. 

The Howadji has dropped into a bad habit 
in giving backsheesh to a pretty little naked 
boy. The penny has gone into the slot, the 
backsheesh machine has started up, and from 
now on naked boys, fringy girls, and a blind 
man follow us not only to the water's edge, 
but, as we gain our landing planks, wade 
into the water in our wake. Howadji throws 
the blind man a coin, which is caught by 
some kind of coast-guard with an old gun on 



THE HOWADJI'S BAD HABIT 221 

his shoulder, who pockets it, and refuses to 
give it up, until he sees Howadji emerge from 
the saloon door armed with our shot-gun. 
Then he quickly hands it over, even before 
the gun can be leveled at him. Then the 
Howadji throws open the gun, showing the 
fellow that it is not loaded, and the laugh 
from the gathered villagers is at his expense. 

Sitt finds some small coins in the depths of 
one of her pockets, and throws them for the 
small boys to scramble for. They fairly 
dredge the river, bringing up handf uls of the 
soft mud, and the thought strikes us that 
they might be useful to us in digging out the 
Terrapin the next time she slips on a sand- 
bar. But to take along a lot of small boys 
for such an emergency would be impossi- 
ble, unless we put them in the felucca, as is 
often done with sheep and lambs, and drag 
them along behind the houseboat. We could 
throw them food at stated intervals, which 
is more than they may get if they remain 
here. Perhaps, however. Alii can manage to 
find us some boys farther down the river 
if we should need them, and we dismiss the 
thought. 

The marvelous color has tempted the How- 



222 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

adji to go to work making color notes, while 
Sitt makes notes with pen and ink. The 
lights and shadows, the colors and outlines, 
are a constant source of enjoyment. Each 
moment they change, and as we turn round 
and round, even the quickest impression 
sketch is difficult to accomplish. One might 
as well try to study astronomy seated on 
a horse of a merry-go-round. Round and 
round we go, fully justifying all that our 
friends had told us of this sort of sailing, but 
which we so little appreciated until we had 
experienced it. Not only is the Howadji 
hampered in making the simplest sketch, but 
the sailor who prays so often must be equally 
disturbed. They both begin well, but How- 
adji soon finds the landscape he is painting 
behind him; while Awassa's prayer, begun 
to the east, continues toward all the other 
points of the compass. Round and round 
our dervish dance continues ; if we leave any 
track, it will resemble a huge scroll. But 
with each turn we gain our own length and 
more, and so as long as the wind holds off we 
shall steadily decrease the distance of eighty 
odd miles between us and Philse. 

By nine in the evening the eighty miles 



THE HOWADJI'S BAD HABIT 223 

have been reduced to sixty, and we are sur- 
prised that we have not yet tied up for the 
night. We do not understand this sudden 
willingness to go on until AlH informs us 
that the crew of an upgoing ghiasha has told 
old Reis Mohammed that his home in Shellal 
has been expropriated by the government. 
He is fully convinced that he will reach 
Shellal to find the house razed to the ground 
and his family removed to other quarters, 
and he mutters to himself as he holds the 
tiller that he cannot get home in time to 
secure his indemnity. We try to comfort 
him with the assurance that governments 
move slowly, and that, though agents may 
have measured off the property and visited 
the house with a view of condemning it, it 
will be months before any action is taken or 
indemnity paid. But the blacks are always 
like children, and the old reis, heedless of 
our explanations, sits huddled up, perched 
on one corner of the deck among ropes and 
cordage, a forlorn and pathetic figure. 

The men have been at the oars since 
dawn, and while they have had extra meals 
and " smokes " at odd hours, they have 
worked bravely ; and they are still singing and 



224 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

shouting long after their usual bedtime. 
There has been no glance towards shore until 
now, at ten o'clock, when at last they begin 
to look for a place into which the Terrapin 
can slip for the night. Then soon their side 
awnings will be tied down, and they should 
be fast asleep and rid of care until the dawn 
of another day. 

This evening, however, proves an excep- 
tion to the rule, for instead of a lonely spot 
on the river, the reis finds one which is evi- 
dently the accustomed stopping-place of the 
ghiashas on their way upstream, and within 
a few moments of our arrival a lot of them 
also draw up, and the reis gets all the latest 
news from Shellal. 

We have been passing numbers of craft 
heavily freighted all this week, for the reg- 
ular winter winds seem to have set in. 
Many of these craft are not the old-fashioned 
wooden boats, but are flat-bottomed iron 
hulls, with high bows like the old models. 
They are laden to the water's edge, and mud 
is often piled on to heighten the bulwarks, 
for the spread of canvas they carry drives 
them rapidly through the water. Such a 
spread of canvas would be impossible where 



THE HOWADJI'S BAD HABIT 225 

winds were squally, especially since certain 
sails have bands or flanges of sail-cloth sewn 
along the seams of the mainsail. The ghi- 
ashas can be said to come along "with a 
big bone in their teeth ; " and they almost 
always appear in squads, like flocks of wild 
geese. The Egyptian wind is satisfactory in 
its way, for it is so avowedly for or against 
one, and it stops for no parleying. 

There are more rows along the banks on 
Fridays than on other days of the week. 
Friday is the Mohammedan holy day, but 
the controversies do not appear to be over 
religious matters. The quarrelsome season 
of Kamadan has not yet begun, but we have 
witnessed three noisy fights along the banks 
in the last twenty-four hours. Of a fight 
which is still going on we can understand 
clearly that the cause is the conduct of a 
native woman in allowing her goats to feast 
upon a large patch of beautiful freshly 
ripened clover which belongs to another 
woman ; for we heard the defrauded owner's 
voice echoing from hill to hill as she ran 
to bring first one neighbor then another. 
Then we saw her run along the bank to a 
stretch where a dozen and more native men 



226 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

were working together, and taking one by 
his arm, drag him alongshore to see the ruin 
which has been wrought, for the goats have 
made good use of their time and have effleure 
the patch, nibbling off the tenderest and 
most delicate leaves. Then the poor crea- 
ture squatted upon the ground, and picking 
up handfuls of dust began the fight by 
throwing it at the other woman, while all 
the village gathered to look on. We are 
tempted to stop and tell the good woman 
that she will make herself ill as well as lose 
her clover crop, if she continues to shriek, 
and scream, and groan, and fly about ; but 
we keep on our way, and as we float beyond 
sound of her shrieking voice, we can still 
discern her wild gesticulations. 

Last night it was the hyenas which had a 
fight on the bank. We heard the distinct 
cry of one and different notes of many, 
sounding like the calls of various kinds of 
animals. This morning we learn — of course 
from AUi, in his usual strange mixture of 
Arabic and English — that the queer shrill 
notes came from the "little brothers and 
sisters ; " in other words, a family of hyena 
pups. When their noise was at its loudest 



THE HOWADJI'S BAD HABIT 227 

during the night, the Howadji had got up to 
fire off a gun in the hope of quieting them ; 
but this was not necessary, for in his annoy- 
ance at all the racket he closed his window 
with a bang, which had all the effect of a 
gunshot : the cries were instantly stilled. 
The natives are forced every night or two to 
fire a blank cartridge to keep off these corpse 
eaters, who would otherwise encroach within 
the village precincts. It is also said that the 
village dogs, which are noisy and bark one, 
bark all, so long as one hyena's call is heard, 
become silent, every one of them, when a 
pack of these animals advance : this is an 
occasion when the dogs deem silence to be 
golden. 



CHAPTER XXIII 



WARRIORS WITH BREASTPLATES OF FIRE" 



Had there been a weather bureau on this 
stretch of the Nile, the clerk would certainly 
have reported for to-day, " Atmospheric con- 
ditions disturbed; falling weather may be 
expected." Had Sitt been that clerk, she 
might even have gone so far as to predict 
snow, for the sun is obscured under just the 
clouds which in other countries indicate heavy 
and fast approaching snowstorms. 

The day continues overcast, and since 
there is no wind, we float north with great 
success between ranges of hills and ava- 
lanches of golden sand which will now for- 
ever remind us of Abou Simbel. We give 
ourselves over part of the time to sketching 
and doctoring servants and crew. Sitt has 
had regular "office practice" for the last few 
days, with first one and then another of the 
crew coming for regular treatment of some 
kind. These blacks are of such a jealous 



"BREASTPLATES OF FIRE" 229 

disposition that if one of them has a real 
complaint, several others will appear with 
wholly imaginary complaints — none the less 
real for the moment, however. 

To our European ears the Arabic words 
for '^ donkey " and " cook " sound quite 
alike. Sitt is told that there is a difference, 
but she can detect none. Certainly the terms 
should be interchangeable where our cook is 
concerned. Though he is quite the most 
elegant-looking person on the boat, he is al- 
ways in trouble. Each time he opens a can 
of game or vegetables he cuts his hand before 
he finishes with that tin. First one finger, 
then another, has been dressed with Pond's 
Extract, arnica, or salve. It is in fact the 
vogue on board to have ailments of one 
kind and another. Mustard plasters have 
been dealt around like playing-cards, and 
linen rags for poultices. Flaxseed has been 
forgotten, and the other classic poultice of 
bread and milk lacks strength where horny 
hands are to be treated, so we use soap. It 
is difficult to tell what color this black flesh 
should be after applications of poultices, 
difficult to tell proud flesh from good flesh. 
Howadji's stock of paint rags is heavily taxed 
for bands for the wounded. 



230 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Office hours for surgical treatment are 
directly after breakfast. Later on to-day we 
watch the clouds and wait for the mail-boat, 
which we announce to E-eis Mohammed will 
be along by 6 p. M. He looks incredulous, 
and when exactly at 5.45 we point out to 
him the wabur (steamboat) in the distance, 
he declines to admit that she is a bosta until 
she warns us by a shrill whistle that she 
has something aboard for us. Only then 
is he willing to send the felucca to board 
her. Had he realized how carefully we had 
counted the hours since she left Shellal with 
our mail and bread, he would have realized 
that we could not be mistaken. 

During the afternoon we had been near- 
ing the pylon of the temple of Dakkeh ; 
from our point of view the hills appear to be 
violet wings attached to its yellow body, — 
the pylon, — but our progress is so slow that 
it is dark before we tie up at the foot of the 
village of Dakkeh. Here we are overtaken 
by an excellent imitation of a snowstorm in 
the form of tiny white dragonflies, with long 
antennae, and oblong, gauzy, white wings. 
They fly by hundreds against the cabin 
windows with the sound of tiny hailstones. 



"BREASTPLATES OF FIKE" 231 

They drive against the glass like particles of 
snow, and thousands and millions are next 
morning brushed up on the deck and in the 
crevices of windows and doors. The servant 
who is washing the dinner dishes by lamp- 
light on the deck has his lamp quite obscured 
and his water thick with these gauzy-winged 
insects. Our saloon door was shut when the 
onset began, or we should have been blinded 
by them. They do not in the least resemble 
moths, for there is no down on their bodies, 
and their wings are like skeleton leaves. 
Attracted by the lights aboard, they had met 
their doom ; or perhaps they were destined 
to live but the one day, for among the heaps 
that were brushed together the next morn- 
ing, not one was alive. Nor did one differ 
from another ; all seemed alike. 

The sunset has been such a stunning one 
that even the top-heavy bosta looked pic- 
turesque as she came along. The clouds 
which had hung about all day are now 
turned to rose and violet, the hills are rosy, 
then golden, then everything in a few mo- 
ments is violet gray. The clouds are like 
oncoming ranks of soldiers, marching along 
roads and valleys of rose-colored earth. 



232 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Such a brilliant array makes Sitt think of 
the army in the Kevelation, which numbered 
two hundred thousand thousand horses rid- 
den by warriors with breastplates of fire, of 
jacinth and brimstone, and out of whose 
mouth issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 
To Howadji it recalled a rhyme of child- 
hood : — 

" I see them on their winding way; 
Among the ranks the moonbeams play; 
Their lofty deeds and bearing high 
Blend with the note of victory." ; 

It is not often given even to the Nile trav- 
eler to behold such glory, nor can we soon 
forget it. 

Sitt is so glad that old black Azib (the 
widower) is to have a new gown, even if it 
is but a gown belonging to one of the other 
men cut over. His clothes have been get- 
ting more and more scanty during the last 
few days, the rents and holes bigger and 
bigger, until we fear that he will — 

" burst this outer coat of sin, 
And hatch himself a cherubim." 

We look down from our stern sheets with 
deep interest upon the sailor who is fitting 
the gown while another pins it up on the 



"BREASTPLATES OF FIRE" 233 

shoulders, and cutting it around the hem — 
with the Howadji's nail scissors, by the way. 
We feel deeply interested in all that goes 
on on that lower deck, and perhaps specially 
in this gown, for it is presumably the outcome 
of our refusal to take old xizib in the fe- 
lucca with us yesterday because his clothes 
were hanging upon him in such a haphazard 
fashion. Apparently in order to avoid being 
hatched a cherubim, and in order to go with 
us in the felucca the next time, old Azib 
has struck a bargain with one of his opulent 
relatives, and our bete noir will arrive in 
Philse as well clad as the rest of the crew — 
but that is not saying much. 

Our stop at Dakkeh will be but long enough 
for the crew to get their night's sleep, and 
if possible, for the donkey to find some eggs 
in the village. Sitt remembers that when in 
Assouan she told the Levantine trader from 
whom she ordered coal, kerosene, and pota- 
toes that she would replenish certain stores in 
Kalabshy and Korosko, he smiled in a way 
which struck Jier as rather sarcastic ; and 
she has since recalled that smile more and 
more vividly each time that anything has been 
needed. She who knew the Nile only up to 



234 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

the First Cataract could little understand 
that places with such high-sounding names 
as Kalabshy and Korosko, which, too, look 
so important on the map, should be quite 
so empty of stores and of supplies to meet 
European needs or wants. 

We are searching all along here not only 
for eggs, but for an island of which Strabo 
writes, — " where there are not many croco- 
diles on account of the current ; " to which 
that one-eyed Ethiope queen, Candace, es- 
caped when attacked by Petronius. But the 
crocodiles, the queen, and the island have all 
disappeared. Things have a weird way of 
disappearing after two thousand years. Of 
the thirty thousand men who were forced 
by Petronius to flee to Dakkeh, there are but 
a few villagers left to tell the tale, and Sitt 
doubts if any of them know anything about 
it. Perhaps it was their thirty thousand 
ghosts who hovered in the sky over the old 
battle-ground at sunset yesterday evening. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 

In the bundle of mail received last night 
by the post-boat is a letter for the Howadji 
from his friend Stephens, who writes, — 

" Do you remember we have not met since 
our visit to the Sphinx that moonlight night 
last winter ? I do not write only to remind 
you of that night "... 

But here the Howadji stops reading to tell 
Sitt of what had happened as he sat on the 
sand, wrapped in his plaid, before the Sphinx 
one morning, waiting for the sun to rise. 
His handsome white donkey, unsaddled and 
hobbled, was breakfasting on a bundle of 
Egyptian clover, and Alii, who had risen so 
long before the sun that he was not interested 
in its rising, lay fast asleep while the don- 
key ate contentedly on. 

Sitt sees that the story is to be a long 
one, but in Nubia there is always time even 
for long stories; so she gets her lacework, 



236 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

and as the needle flies, the Howadji goes 
on: — 

" The morning was chill and wonderfully 
still, no cry but the sound of a distant hawk 
as it circled round in the cloudless sky, with 
spread wings like a ceiling decoration in an 
ancient tomb. The head of the colossal fig- 
ure was fifty feet above me ; it stared stead- 
ily on with battered eyes toward the east, its 
shapely lips tightly pressed as if to guard a 
secret, its secret which the stele between the 
great paws does not reveal. Ages have de- 
faced the form of this mysterious stone image, 
man has mutilated its features, but without 
its beard and crown it is still the colossal 
god of the morning, a colossal wonder which 
no one has yet comprehended or explained. 
It was just at sunrise, the horizon was hid- 
den from the point where I crouched down 
before the Sphinx, but I could see the light 
of the sun as it gilded the summit of the 
great Pryamid and crept down from stone 
to stone, until suddenly it flashed upon the 
head of the Sphinx, and changed it from 
reddish gray to pure gold. The head was 
outlined against a sky of blue enamel. 

'^ You remember that the Sphinx stands 



THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 237 

in a hollow-like bowl. Well, the sun was 
hardly up when a young girl scarce more 
than a child came running along at the top 
of the decline^ running in a strangely grace- 
ful manner, her head up, throwing her feet 
forward like a high-stepping horse, and hold- 
ing her single garment well up to the knees. 
She shied like a startled faun when she saw 
those who had arrived before her, but 
quickly comprehending that they were only a 
traveler and his attendant, she ignored them, 
continued her tour of inspection round the 
Sphinx, and disappeared over the crest of the 
excavation. Her footstep was not so light 
but that it awakened AUi, who saw at once 
that the Howadji, like himself, was puzzled 
to know what the child came for. She asked 
no backsheesh, but came and went without 
speaking. AUi knows Cairo ways, but he 
does not know the mysteries of the desert. 

"^Here she comes back again,' whispered 
AUi, ' coming with woman.' 

'' The child advanced down the bank lead- 
ing by the hand a beautiful woman with many 
gold ornaments about her head, arms, and 
ankles, though her small, well-formed feet 
were bare." 



238 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

" How did you know she was beautiful/' 
interrupts Sitt, who displays keener interest 
at this point of the narrative — the introduc- 
tion of a beautiful woman. 

" Because she let her veil drop aside just 
as she passed me, to let me see how beau- 
tiful she was, and I had ample time to see 
her before she managed to re-cover her face. 
She knew she was beautiful, and told me so 
with her long, dark eyes." 

'^ And why did you never mention this 
beauty to me before ? " 

" And why do you interrupt the story ? " 
Howadji retorts. 

" Forgive me, forgive me, I am only chaff- 
ing you ; do go on." 

" The dark beauty went quickly round the 
Sphinx, touched it, and climbed the bank 
past me again, all the while holding the 
child's hand in hers. Alii still had no idea 
why they had come, but said they had come 
a long way, for the woman had a donkey, and 
there was a man waiting for her down in the 
valley by the well. 

" ' Ask some one why they came, AUi,' I 
said. 

"^ Who shall I ask?' 




H' 




THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 



THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 239 

" To be sure, he could n't ask the Sphinx 
and he could n't ask the donkey, so I contin- 
ued my sketch, and AUi again fell asleep. 

" ^ AUi, Alii ! there 's another ! ' soon I 
exclaimed, pointing this time to the other 
side of the little declivity; ^now you must 
find out why these people are coming here.' 

" The newcomers were a man and woman 
mounted on a camel, which of course knelt 
for them to dismount. The man stayed with 
the beast while the woman went down the 
bank and positively knelt before the Sphinx. 
Alii reluctantly moved ojff, and gradually 
approached the man, with whom he ex- 
changed various salutations. It was a strange 
morning scene ; a strange combination, — a 
white painter sketching, a woman kneeling, 
an Arab interviewing a camel-driver, and a 
great solemn statue towering above all. By 
the time AUi was back, the woman had risen 
and was passing around the foot of the great 
colossus ; then she moved off while he was 
whispering to me. 

" ' Man tell marah queis ' — 

" But I shall not try to tell you in his 
language. The gist of it was that the man 
was fond of his good, new wife, and that 



240 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

they had made a long journey to Abou 
Hone (father of terrors), the god of the ris- 
ing sun, to implore him to grant their wish 
that their child might be a son. They be- 
lieved this wish to be in the power of Abou 
Hone to grant to those who know the secret. 
"I sketched on quietly, with Alli's fly- 
brush waving above my head, until suddenly 
the big white donkey's bray was answered by 
a beast which was drawing a sand-cart. The 
broad wheeler passed, its occupants shouted 
good-morning, and the information that they 
were off for an excursion across desert to 
Sakkarah. Then I shut up my box, and AUi 
began to saddle the donkey, for he knew our 
morning's work was over, that it could never 
go on in the clouds of dust that the group 
of Italians coming along would kick up. 
Yes ; here they were, the whole lot of Arabs, 
Greeks, photographers, beggars, camel-driv- 
ers, and guides, whose arrival meant that 
sightseers from Cairo were on the way, and 
heralded the beginning of the commercial, 
begging, howling day at the Sphinx. The 
beggars will beg, the tourists will form into 
groups to be photographed, with the Sphinx 
as a background^ that colossus they have 



THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 241 

come so far to see will stand waiting their 
leisure^ but all will be too busy being ' taken ' 
to pay him due homage." 

^^ But I don't see what this has to do with 
your friend Stephens ; the letter you received 
this morning spoke about a moonlight night 
at the Sphinx, not a morning at the Sphinx," 
says Sitt, who, since hearing about the beau- 
tiful woman in the beginning of the story, is 
wondering if there may not be another one 
of whom she has not yet heard. 

"There you are, interrupting me again; 
if you would only wait one moment, you 
would hear that Stephens was on the porch 
at the Mina House in the evening, and was 
among those who heard me tell about the 
strange women who came to the Sphinx 
while I was painting that morning. Ste- 
phens is one of those practical, matter-of- 
fact Americans who laugh at anything like 
legends and traditions. He and his wife 
were of a camel party which was arranged 
to ride over to the Sphinx from the Mina 
House in the warm moonlight after we had 
finished our coffee and cigars. His wife, 
who was a bride at the time, wore a white, 
decollete gown, and around her neck a 



242 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

circle of moonstones which caught the light 
like diamonds. It was so warm that none 
of us had wraps, and as Stephens's bride rode 
across the sand on the great white camel, she 
was so beautiful that she could have been 
taken for the spirit of the Sphinx which 
haunts the desert at night." 

'^ There you are again. I knew there must 
be another beautiful woman in the story be- 
cause you remember all the incidents so well, 
and the next time you make a week's sketch- 
ing trip to Mina House, I am going too. 
Very strange that you have never told me 
anything about all this before," exclaimed 
Sitt, whose jealousy was aroused ; " well, 
what did you all do with your camels, and 
your beautiful women, and the moonlight, 
and the moonstones? " 

" Oh, well, we did n't do anything. We 
just rode over to the Sphinx, and round and 
round it, and up and down, until most of us 
had had enough, and the Stephenses and I 
were the only ones who lingered. I suddenly 
felt de trop; I shall never just know why; 
and as I rode away I looked back and saw 
Mrs. Stephens run down the incline to the 
Sphinx, and several times put up her hand to 



THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX 243 

touch the great colossus; and it is Stephens's 
letter to-day that brings back the whole thing 
so vividly. He writes to tell me that he has 
a son, and asks for my congratulations." 

" Well, when you write, tell him that since 
he himself is now an Abou, he can call the 
baby little Hone." 



CHAPTER XXV 

SAILING INTO THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 

It is December 31, 1899. We are appar- 
ently to pass this last day of the month and 
last day of the year stuck on a mud-bank 
in midstream. This time it is Sitt's fault in 
giving the crew a lot of white bread. They 
were so afraid that the division would not 
be fair unless all were present to see it cut 
into equal parts, that the lookout came from 
the bow and the reis from the tiller ; and 
only the little cook was giving any attention 
to the boat. He took the helm, temporarily ; 
but he could not be expected to know how 
a sand-bar looks under water ; so suddenly 
there was a scraping, crunching sound, a 
heaving to one side, then to the other, and 
we brought up on a hidden ridge, for the 
Nile was never so low, and there is more 
land than water to sail over. 

Sometimes we are lucky enough to scrape 
hard and run off, but to-day we have evi- 



THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTUKY 245 

dently come to stay. Aside from loss of time 
and the extra work it gives the men, the 
danger to the boat is not inconsiderable, for 
the bottoms of these houseboats may be 
many years older than they appear. The 
timbers are much strained, and the seams 
opened even by scraping, but when a real 
bank like the one we are now on is struck, 
the timbers creak, and groan, and catastrophe 
seems to be threatened. So far our hull is 
intact, though we take in water between the 
seams which has to be baled out repeatedly ; 
but there is no danger of our boat " turning 
turtle," for the water is not deep enough. 
The last time we went on a bank we took 
out nearly twenty buckets — or kerosene 
cans — of water. We have never been so 
seriously stranded as on this morning, and 
Sitt fears that the number of cans we may 
have to take out will be above the point to 
which she can count in Arabic. This terra 
jirma may be firmer than our boat's bottom, 
and we may yet have to finish our Nubian 
voyage on one of the post-boats, leaving the 
Terrapin to float down when the river begins 
to rise early next summer. 

Notwithstanding that our contract con- 



246 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

tains a clause exempting us from responsi- 
bility in ease of accident to our home, our 
effects are not insured, for that was one of 
the things we forgot to arrange before start- 
ing. The crew have been pushing and pull- 
ing, sighing and yelling, for over two hours, 
without apparently the slightest effect, and 
Sitt, unable longer to stand it, goes down 
into the saloon for the Howadji, whom she 
finds there comfortably curled up in a corner 
of the wide couch. 

" Howadji, something must be done to get 
this boat off." 

His only reply is to ask her to listen to 
something interesting he has been reading 
about Can dace, the queen of the Ethiopians, 
— how during the reign of Augustus Caesar 
she ^^was repulsed, with all her followers, 
by Petronius, who garrisoned Ibrim in 22 
B. c, which was held by the Eomans till the 
reign of Diocletian ; " how — 

" To begin with," Sitt retorts impatiently, 
" I know all that by heart. It is the Ethi- 
opians up on deck who need your attention. 
Come up and talk like a pacha to them." 

The Howadji still Hngers below to light 
his pipe, and then, after a look up and down 



THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 247 

stream through the windows, goes on deck, 
already determined that what ought to be 
done is at least to prevent the men pulling 
in one direction, while the current pushes in 
another, and the wind in a third. Sitt is 
angry with the men for being so stupid, 
angry with Howadji for staying down in 
the saloon with that one-eyed queen, angrier 
with him for being able to discern at a glance 
what should be done, — that we should utiHze 
our sail, which will now do more pulling for 
us than twenty men. 

" Eeis, put up sail ! Listen, sail up ! " she 
shouts in her best Arabic. 

" Sitt say put up sail," cries AUi. 

" Sitt say put up sail," echoes the cook. 

Eeis stares at Sitt and then at the sail, 
evidently puzzled at the order ; and not until 
Sitt tugs at the ropes, and Alii and she half 
loosen the sheet, does he obey. The sail rat- 
tles out, unfurls, fills, and in a moment the 
boat slips off and rights herself, but heading 
toward Abou Simbel. The sailors in the 
water hang on to their tow-line and tumble 
on board as the reis, once again in an open 
channel, puts the boat about just as Howadji 
remarks to Sitt : — 



248 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

" You do not know how much more com- 
fortable the lounges are when the boat keels 
over a bit." 

All along this stretch of the river are the 
ruins of old signal towers; we call them 
Roman because they are square and solid 
even though in ruins. They are built of 
unhewn stone, and are just far enough apart 
— five miles — to admit of sentinels flashing 
lights to convey information, — alarm sig- 
nals much more ef&cacious and more quickly 
conveyed than by any kind of messenger. 

The Howadji, with faithful AUi at his 
heels, is off this first morning of 1900 be- 
fore sunrise to see a temple and get a shot 
at some pigeons, but he is back early, having 
found the temple of slight interest and the 
poor little pigeons scarcely worth the powder. 
He had an unexpected tramp through the 
fifteen feet high durra after a jackal, which 
he was lucky enough to get at the first pop, 
for the jackal would never have let him have 
another. 

New resolutions, new promises to one's 
self, and all that is so beautifully expressed 
in Holmes's " Chambered Nautilus," are as 
uppermost in one's thoughts this first day of 



THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 249 

the last year of a century in Nubia as else- 
where on this busy globe ; the difference is that 
far from the haunts of men, one has more 
opportunity to think things out clearly, and 
commune with one's self. But there is no 
difference in the sky, and very little in the 
landscape between the last day of 1899 and 
this first day of 1900. There is the same 
soft air ; on shore the same little nude boys 
and little girls with long fringes — or others 
so like them that they are indistinguishable. 
" There is nothing like a good beginning," 
prompts Sitt's American conscience, and no 
sooner is Howadji off after those pigeons 
than she is up. She is already a bit con- 
science-stricken for not having gone to see 
that temple of Dendur, but she consoles her- 
self with the thought that it is not one of 
the best temples, nor yet the second nor the 
third best, and she is sure that it will be much 
more interesting after breakfast in Baedeker. 
She is soon rewarded for remaining behind 
by quite as interesting sights on board as on 
the banks above, for a queer vendor of milk 
and eggs comes alongside to offer her wares. 
It cannot be asked of her, " Where are you 
going, my pretty maid ? " for she is excessively 



250 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Ugly. She has a ring in her nose, another in 
the top of one ear, her voice is shrill, on her 
feet are red slippers, and she wears a gown 
which recalls to mind the little woman in 
Mother Goose whose petticoats were cut off on 
the king's highway. Why such scant and 
short skirts, Sitt wonders ; is it because she is 
so ugly that she does not need trailing skirts 
to keep young Ethiopians from falling in love 
with her footprints ? She is for some time 
by the boat's side driving her bargain with 
Awassa, not having seen Sitt, who hides 
behind the saloon curtain. Just as the sailor 
is getting the milk at his own price, back 
comes the Howadji. Instantly the price is 
doubled — there is now a European in the 
question, and the milkmaid sees her chance. 

The Howadji is in high good humor, hav- 
ing had one or two successful shots, and is 
vastly amused at the ugly, comical figure ; so 
he forthwith pays her her exorbitant price 
of three pence for the three quarts of milk. 
Yet she scolds away until we are out of sight, 
and whether she thinks she ought to have 
had more, or whether she is sorry to have us 
leave, we shall never know. 

How are we to celebrate this first day 



THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 251 

of the last year of the century? We are 
about to try to forget that it is a f esta, and 
are just sitting down to lace-making and 
history, when a little ferry boat crosses our 
path flying a lot of strange, faded old flags, 
and we hastily begin to bargain for them 
in midstream. We offer our price, but the 
boatmen pronounce it too low ; we offer more, 
they are still not satisfied ; the shouting from 
their boat and ours continues while the dis- 
tance between us is steadily widening, and 
we are passing almost out of earshot when 
they accept our last offer. Then the felucca 
is got ready, and the men pull away with our 
money to complete the bargain and get the 
stuffs. All go but the reis, who is at the tiller, 
and the lame old widower, who is like the 
little lame child in the " Pied Piper of Hame- 
lin," too slow to keep up with the crowd. 
We had closed the bargain at four shillings 
for the five flags. They are faded enough 
to be really pretty ; two of them are yellow 
with white bands, one is red with faded 
green border, another golden brown with 
light blue stripes, another silver gray which 
must have once been green or blue. When 
down they have the tired-out appearance of 



252 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

flags that have been with brave regiments 
through many hard-fought battles, but it 
is the wind of the Nile which has whipped 
them into this aspect. It should be noted 
that AUi learned from the little cook — who 
as usual did not profit by the bargaining 
— that the crew gave but one shilling to 
the traders, dividing the other three among 
themselves. The little cook often tells Alii 
of things which Alii puts into his pipe and 
smokes for our benefit. 

So we dress ship in honor of New Year's 
day with our new purchases, which bear 
Arabic characters for Allah and for Moham- 
med his prophet. They are strung from the 
mainmast across the after deck, while the 
stars and stripes are at the stern ; and one 
long pennant at the mast, with a large stars 
and stripes and a large Egyptian flag, com- 
pletes our spread of bunting. The combined 
effect is very gay, and arouses great interest 
among the fellaheen and saqquia drivers. 
We know they are interested, though we are 
too far off to see their black faces, and we 
are satisfied that we are doing our share 
towards honoring Nineteen Hundred. 

Since midday we have watched the temple 



THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 253 

of Kalabshy in the offing, but we are wind 
bound, and as four o'clock draws near, we 
decide to take the felucca and leave the old 
Terrapin to float down after us. We must 
have the setting sun on those pylons and 
fallen columns. What a remnant of a village 
it is that remains to mark the site of that 
great capital in the third century ! 

We cross the river, in which the wind 
against the current is making real waves, 
and are drawing to land in our felucca, when 
an excursion boat passes close to our oars. 
All on board have their eyes and glasses 
fixed on the dahabeah flying its strange show 
of bunting, and never give a glance from the 
other side of the boat. Among the passen- 
gers we recognize friends, but the wind and 
the noise of the steam-wheeler drown our 
calls, and had we needed their assistance, we 
might have perished in midstream before 
they had caught sight of us. We are keenly 
disappointed. The steamer whistles and dips 
her flag, and ours are dipped in return, so 
we do the correct thing by proxy, but can 
feel the excursionists wonder why the mas- 
ter and guests of the gayly decked pleasure 
boat don't show up. 



254: OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

The natives have gathered from far and 
near alongshore to be ready for the excur- 
sionists, and are as disappointed as we that 
they steam by, leaving Kalabshy for a visit on 
their return voyage. The natives of Kalab- 
shy are the most enterprising of all we have 
encountered in Nubia, and have many things 
of all kinds for sale, — weapons, sticks, silver 
and tin ornaments, and beads. But we are 
far more interested in them than in their 
wares, — in the little boys devoid of any 
clothing, with their straight backs and lithe 
limbs, the little girls in their hip fringes, and 
the older children clad in all kinds of rem- 
nants given them by passing excursionists. 
One is specially amusing in red cardinals and 
waistcoat worn over blue drawers, his black 
face powdered over with white dust through 
which he had run to Kalabshy. He is the 
clown of the party. 

They form a hollow square and escort us 
to the temple. This is more picturesque and 
paintable than anything we have seen along 
the Nubian banks, for the native huts are 
still built under the eaves, in the corners and 
angles, while the debris from broken columns, 
tumbled-in roofs, and shattered walls, all lies 



THE LAST YEAR OF A CENTURY 255 

just where it fell. It is the only temple we 
have seen in either Egypt or Nubia which 
has not been too much cleaned up and too 
much restored by some foreign societies. 
Here one climbs in and over the broken 
masses, reaching at length the grade of the 
roof, whence one looks down upon what 
can in reality be termed a pile. All this is 
the work of an earthquake, which shook the 
temple from its foundations almost as a cat 
shakes a mouse. The Romans appear to 
have built most solidly, for their wall of 
well-placed oblong stones running parallel 
with the river is in parts quite intact. The 
temple dates from the days of the Ptolemies, 
and little of the destruction here can be 
laid to the Christians. How beautiful is the 
effect of the great trees growing here and 
there from beneath the broken columns and 
debris, with the shadow of their branches 
making graceful tracery on the gray sand- 
stone walls ! How beautiful must Karnak 
have been under the same circumstances, be- 
fore all kinds of questionable rebuildings and 
clearings away were ordered ! How great 
its beauty, had not its rebuilder striven to 
patch up the work of time and iconoclast ! 



256 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

It is easy to trace the scheme of all parts 
and of the decoration in this ruin of Kalab- 
shy. Though never one of the foremost in 
beauty of design and execution, it gives more 
pleasure than many greater temples which 
have been ruined by ill-advised, badly exe- 
cuted restorations. The squalid little homes 
in juxtaposition to it remind one of the 
great difference between the estates of the 
ruling priests and the slaves at their very 
doors, who may then as now have cultivated 
the hundred yard strip between the river and 
the temple, and made of it a garden with 
great trees to lend their shade. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE PETIT TRIANON OF NUBIA 

Eamadan has begun. The Howadji has 
implored, threatened to give no more back- 
sheesh, and argued, to no purpose. He has 
explained to the crew that the Koran 
distinctly says it is not necessary for work- 
ing men to fast; that only last year the 
whole Soudanese army had a dispensation 
from keeping Ramadan. But our crew still 
fast on, huddled together in the sun; the 
hearthstone is cold; there is no coffee fo?: 
breakfast, there are no hot cakes, there is no 
smoking until after sunset. The forty days 
of fasting from sunrise to sunset also means 
feasting and rioting from sunset to sunrise. 
From the reis of forty years to the little cook 
of twelve, not a morsel has passed their lips 
to-day, not even a drink of Nile water. Of 
course there is little work done all day, and 
— as we are asleep at night — we are sure 
that very little is done all night, for over and 



258 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

above the fact that Ramadan is now their 
first consideration^ the reis has heard that his 
land and house are in no immediate danger, 
and it is a matter of no concern to him when 
we reach Shellal. 

Of course, coming as it does this year at a 
time when the days are short, the fasting is 
only en regie from QA5 a. m. to 5.15 p. m., 
but the feasting and rioting all over the land 
lasts during all the long hours of darkness. 
The quarreling is incessant, and more di- 
vorces take place in this land — • where a Mo- 
hammedan has but to say three times to his 
wife, " I divorce you " — during the six 
weeks of Ramadan than through all the rest 
of the year. 

Alii can be said to be our only comfort, 
for he does not keep Ramadan ; by the How- 
adji's command, and under compulsion, he 
is forbidden the pleasure of fasting, but his 
countenance is none the less sad when he 
comes to the Howadji with the complaint 
that the crew call him a Christian. 

" If they never call you a worse name 
than that, you should be happy," said Sitt. 

" Never you mind, never you mind," is the 
usual enigmatical reply. 



THE PETIT TRIANON OF NUBIA 259 

The Howadji declares that he will never 
again take a crew who do not sign a contract 
that they will not keep Ramadan, but this 
determination avails little in the present 
crisis. The wind, too, is ever against us, and 
will not even allow us to float down with the 
current. Boreas's persistency has become 
wearisome ; he forces himself in at every 
loose door and window, swings the saloon 
lamp like a merry wedding-bell, and bangs 
the rowboat every minute or two against 
the rudder. So with the delights of a long 
voyage between banks which are not dan- 
gerous to the navigator, and where the water 
is scarcely deep enough to cause anxiety, are 
mingled some drawbacks. 

Kalabshy was the last temple visited yes- 
terday, and last night, during all the sailors' 
hubbub, we slipped through the Bab-el-Kalab- 
shy, a point to which we had looked forward, 
where the headlands of rock more nearly ap- 
proach one another than at any point between 
Philse and Wady Haifa. Here the How- 
adji was to have stopped for a sketch, but 
before he wakes in the morning, it is already 
behind us. 

Our progress, a mile an hour, has brought 



260 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

US this morning opposite the ruin of the 
miniature temple of Kertassi, with its Hathor- 
headed columns each side of the entrance. 
It is so dainty, so unique, so exquisitely 
placed, that it reminds Sitt of the delicate 
beauty and grace of the Petit Trianon. 
Here royalty and priests could have played 
at all the rites of religion, have spent odd 
seasons resting between the great ceremoni- 
als of the great temples, — ceremonials de- 
picted on so many walls, which give in detail 
the procession of priests, of sacrificial ani- 
mals, of the king surrounded by followers, 
with his crown of state on his head, a crown 
which must indeed, with all its insignia of 
godHke power, have made the brow weary. 
Here at Kertassi the greatest king could 
have worshiped, as it were, en petit comite, 
looking out over the Nile as it sped on and 
down to his thousands of acres and thou- 
sands of subjects. Kertassi enjoys a position 
almost as unique as the Acropolis. Seen 
from below with the sky showing between 
its delicate columns, it is a bijou of a temple ; 
and when looked down upon from the knoll, 
it appears in conjunction with the opposite 



THE PETIT TRIANON OF NUBIA 261 

hills and the river far below. Here it stands, 
half surrounded by old granite quarries, 
covered with the dust of ages, with no habi- 
tation, so far as the eye can reach, save 
our tiny Terrapin upstream. There are evi- 
dences of these quarries being lately worked 
for some buildings which are to be in 
Shellal, but the workmen are all away — 
keeping Ramadan probably; no sound of 
hammer or crowbar breaks the silence which 
reigns over all. The stone about Kertassi 
is, when first quarried, of the whiteness of 
marble, and bluish in tint, but it turns to 
rich yellow under continued exposure to the 
sun's heat. We are told that the stone for 
certain Philse temples came from these 
Kertassi quarries, but it is hard to realize 
that the temples, which are now almost 
golden, can ever have been cold and blue 
and white. 

We are tired of fighting the wind, and in 
the afternoon again come on shore, this time 
with sailors and guns, for we have seen some 
wild geese, and perhaps will be lucky enough 
to have some good shots. Alas ! we get no 
shot ; but some one else has had better luck, 



262 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

for we find the feathers of newly plucked 
birds in crevices of the rocks. We conclude 
that the geese will be too cunning to fly this 
way soon again, and so give up the sport. 
Howadji wishes to know how long a goose's 
memory is, but no one can tell him. 



CHAPTEE XXVII 

THE watchman's VALLEY 

Our journey is drawing to an end before 
we find remains of anything antique which 
is not described in all the guides. We have 
become so tired of the hurricane which keeps 
us from floating on our way that anything 
of any kind is a boon, and when, while wan- 
dering on shore, we come to Wady Raffi, the 
Watchman's Valley, where we find the re- 
mains of a small temple with one of its lotus- 
topped columns still standing and the bases 
of others still in place, we are as excited as 
if we had come upon Captain Kidd's treasure. 
We discover one stone with the ornamenta- 
tion of the sacred ibis still upon it, and over 
it the classic frieze of cobra heads. 

The stock in trade of the natives at this 
point differs from that elsewhere, including 
only a few small bronze coins, a flat stone 
with a Greek inscription, and a green tomato. 
We buy the coins and the stone for half a 



264 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

piastre each, but refuse the tomato even as 
a gift. 

About the site of the temple are the re- 
mains of a Roman camp, a piece of Roman 
wallj and a well. It is only after much 
questioning that we are told that the place 
has a name. There must have once been 
something here worth watching, if there was 
a watchman, but we can neither find the 
Watchman's Valley on the map, nor any 
account of the place elsewhere. As we push 
off, a woman with covered head and bare 
legs runs through the shallow water to our 
boat's side with a broken copper coin, for 
which she asks half a piastre. We buy it 
"unsight, unseen," as the boys swap jack- 
knives, for half a piastre is not much to 
squander even on a counterfeit; and upon 
after-inspection we find that it bears the 
name of a governor under Abbassi, Khalif 
of Egypt, and is of a date about 800 a. d. 

We shall certainly return some day to ex- 
cavate at Wady Raf&. The desire to have 
one's own little gang of basket carriers and 
go to work digging in one's own little reser- 
vation to find one's own " antiquas " grows 
stronger and stronger as the everyday life 
of the present recedes. 



THE WATCHMAN'S VALLEY 265 

The Ramadan quarreling has been notice- 
able all alongshore this afternoon, and al- 
though it is but the first day of the fast, we 
have had two lamp chimneys, a cup handle, 
and a saucer smashed, and a pane of glass 
shattered. If it is to continue at this rate, 
lucky indeed is it for us that we are nearing 
the end rather than at the beginning of our 
cruise. 

Just before sundown the sailors wash their 
hands and feet, say their prayers, and hang 
over the gunwale of the boat to catch the 
first glimpse of the new moon. We have 
assured them all day that the new moon is 
not due till to-morrow, but they continue to 
murmur " EUeladey " (this evening). They 
have kept their fast all day, heedless of our 
statement that since it is the Sultan in Con- 
stantinople who must see the moon and tele- 
graph to all the provinces of the faithful, 
they need not fast till his order is received. 

Still all are intently watching the western 
sky, and even we are infected with some of 
their excitement. 

" There ! " cries Awassa, who of all these 
long-sighted men seems to see farthest. We 
strain our eyes, but see not the faintest out- 



266 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

line of the moon, and it is some moments be- 
fore others of the crew discern it, and longer 
still before we finally make it out. It is 
like a silver thread, along with a brilliant star. 
All is now commotion. From the shore come 
sounds of gunshots, which we answer with a 
succession of shots from our revolver; men 
shout ; children cry ; women emit the strange 
call which is taught them in early childhood, 
the Zingaree ; and even the dogs in the ham- 
lets bark loudly. The first few moments of 
exultation over, the men break their fast, and 
silence again reigns along the banks where 
every human being is in all probability eat- 
ing as fast as he can. And so ends our first 
day of Ramadan. 

Through the three days' wind-storm we 
have floated down but five miles each day, 
and now, her patience gone, Sitt is walking 
the upper deck disappointed, fretted, and 
angry. The Terrapin has earned her name ; 
perhaps it would have been more fitting to 
have called her the " Snail," for even a Mary- 
land diamond-back is fast compared to this 
boat. The wind against the current makes 
little white caps, and we float along side- 
wise, and endwise, and often no-wise at all. 



THE WATCHMAN'S VALLEY 267 

Even walking, Sitt declares, would be better 
than this. The eggs and potatoes have given 
out, fresh bread, newspapers, and letters are 
awaiting us at Shellal. Surely, one ought 
not to attempt such an excursion unless the 
whole winter and part of the spring were at 
his disposal. Meanwhile the Howadji, who 
had no time for reading when at Abou Sim- 
bel, is provokingly contented to curl up in a 
corner of the divan in the saloon, with some 
history of a thousand years ago in hand, and 
let the boat go backwards if she will. He 
tries to curb Sitt's impatience by reminding 
her that the Khedival ball is never until 
February, and that there is certainly no 
danger of missing our return passage across 
the Mediterranean, since we are not booked 
till March, which gives us over ten weeks for 
the accomplishment of the remaining twelve 
miles of our voyage. 

The wind, instead of blowing itself out, 
having stiffened to a regular gale, driving us 
upstream in spite of the sail being tightly 
furled, and of all that the current can do, we 
are forced to seek shelter and tie up. We 
find a haven behind an old Roman wall or 
barrier built many feet out into the river's 



268 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

bed, which was once the boundary of Egypt. 
Here we remain until at last the wind goes 
down with the sun, when the men can take 
a turn at the oars. They work well for 
several hours, then all settle to sleep except 
poor old Reis Mohammed, who squats nobly 
at his post as he has done for the last few 
days. All through the hours that we lie 
stretched in our bunks the old fellow is 
awake, and every time he puts the rudder 
about, we hear a strange scraping overhead 
like the sound which a man who walks with 
a wooden leg makes. Surely, we should long 
ago have known if our faithful reis had a 
wooden leg ! But the next morning the 
sound is explained, for we find that he had a 
small fire in a brazier, and that each time he 
moved he dragged the brazier along after 
him. We are glad that he borrowed from 
our charcoal, for these nights are very cold ; 
the nearer we approach to Shellal the colder 
they grow ; in the early part, at nine or ten, 
two light blankets are sufficient covering; 
towards two in the morning a third would 
not be uncomfortable ; by three it is neces- 
sary; by four the sleeper is aroused by a 
desire for more, and before the sun rises, ten 



THE WATCHMAN'S VALLEY 269 

to one he has utilized all the dressing-gowns^ 
overcoats, and divan covers within reach. 

Sitt had rather feared that this would be 
a nuit hlanche, for the Howadji has reck- 
oned that the Terrapin can crawl all the way 
to Philae before 7 A. m., unless the reis should 
stop at his native village, some miles short 
of our destination. To prevent this, the 
Howadji sleeps with one eye open, and is 
on deck by four in the morning. It seems 
that he was actually up with the Southern 
Cross, which was right over the stern, shining 
in all its brilliancy until the breaking day 
caused it to pale and pale, the glory of the 
one being the disappearance of the other. 
The general impression that one must travel 
farther than Kalabshy to see the Southern 
Cross is an error, for here it is a few miles 
from Philae, to be seen until dawn in the 
month of January ; while those who Knger 
in Luxor until April can see it without even 
setting their alarm clocks at an unusual hour. 
A pretty little New Zealander, on her way 
" home " to England, once told us how they 
had the Southern Cross as a traveling com- 
panion from New Zealand all along their 
journey until they lost it at Suez, and this in 
the month of February. 



270 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

It is almost sunrise. The sailors stop row- 
ing, tumble overboard for a morning bath, 
put on their best gowns, re-roll the white 
cloths of their turbans, say their prayers, and 
then are to the oars again instead of going 
to breakfast, for in Ramadan they are indeed 
like the snark and breakfast " at five o'clock 
tea." Now the singing begins ; between 
every vigorous stroke they shout loudly, that 
their acquaintances alongshore may know 
they are coming. Just as we approach Shellal 
the sun bursts upon the tops of the pylons 
of Philse, turns all to gold, as it has a way 
of doing in this wondrous atmosphere of 
Nubia, and creeps down the side of the hill 
to the small temple with its unfortunate nick- 
name of Pharaoh's Bed. The Terrapin after 
all has done nobly — thirteen miles in twelve 
hours. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

THE EMERALD HUNTERS 

The name Philse — the end of the journey, 
for such is the signification of the word — 
occurs hundreds of times on the island itself. 
In fact, says Baedeker, it occurs thousands 
of times, in spite of which the natives in these 
days call it Anas-el- Wogud, after one of the 
heroes of the Arabian Nights. That an is- 
land long-time known as sacred should come 
to be called by such a profane name is sur- 
prising in this land where things keep on in 
the old ruts, just because habit is a deep rut 
hard to get out of. 

All, however, is for the present changed in 
the neighborhood of this once sacred spot. 
It must have been always a busy one, since 
the priests, how many years ago would not 
be safe to say, had to place an embargo upon 
the pilgrims who not only came to their 
shrine, but remained long enough to eat the 
good men out of house and home, — another 



272 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

instance of '' save me from my friends/' for 
the priests, reduced thereby to poverty, ap- 
pealed to the hierarchic powers to save them. 

What would they think, could they re- 
turn to their once dainty, much-loved island 
and see it now ? After hundreds of years 
of quiet and solitude, the surrounding hills 
resound to the report of blasting rocks and 
a screaming of little hauling engines. On 
every point a new tree has grown — the 
derrick tree. Shellal, with its shanties, its 
bazaars, its railroad shed, its post-office, its 
military headquarters, its mixed population 
of Greeks, Italians, Germans, and Arabs, has 
sprung up as in a night. This mushroom 
growth has about six years of life before it, 
for then the barrage will have been finished, 
and its waters will have risen, and Shellal 
will be like a city at the bottom of the Dead 
Sea. 

Four years ago there was not so much as 
a post-office here ; now, when the English 
mail reaches Shellal, lo ! two or three officials 
and several aids have to " step lively " to sort 
and arrange it. They dive into as big sacks 
as any received elsewhere, and bring out 
great bundles of letters and papers. The 






/'■vy:&u,,.^. 



THE TERRAPIN AT PHILiE 



THE EMERALD HUNTERS 273 

pigeon-holes are more than f ull^ and yet the 
" Keservoir mail " is not even sorted here, 
but goes to the sub-office at the Reservoir, 
where the hundreds of men employees are ex- 
pecting to hear from their families in almost 
every point of the globe. 

The poor old priests of Philae were not 
more put about by pilgrims than the sheik 
of the cataract is in these days nonplused 
at the coming of workmen, engines, mining 
machinery, and every invention for doing 
quick and substantial work. As the priests 
called to high officials to deliver them from 
pilgrims, so the sheik of the cataract, who has 
for years drawn up dahabeahs and cargo 
boats, and piloted them down, calls upon the 
government to deliver him from these men 
who are building a dam across the river, 
breaking up his trade and the source of his 
revenues. His has been an inherited patent. 
For generations his ancestors may have pro- 
fited by extorting from the traveler, and now 
he has nothing to hope for unless, like our 
old stage-drivers who became conductors on 
the trains when stages passed away, he be- 
comes a bookkeeper for the new concern. 

We are scarcely moored at the foot of the 



274 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

'^ Kiosque/' when the Howadji is at work 
painting in the temple which crowns the hill, 
the reis is off on a holiday to visit his family, 
and some of the crew are away on leave of 
absence, while those remaining are cleaning 
the boat inside and out, to its surprise as 
well as their own. They all ask Alii why 
clean the boat when the voyage is over, but 
AUi, who knows from his knives, and forks, 
and tea-things, tells them : — 

"Better put boat back clean, find him 
clean." 

Even Sitt is going for a day's holiday, — 
over to that gay centre, Assouan, to see a 
few white faces, and to find out what new 
fashions in hair and in hats may have come 
in during the winter while she has seen only 
fashions of nose-rings and castor-oiled pig- 
tails, as children call them. She feels like 
one of those dug-up things herself, and as if 
she might begin conversing about Kameses 
II. or Candace and Petronius, without heed- 
ing that all about her are more interested in 
the new dam, in the new Sirdar, and the 
Sirdar's baby. 

Still the Terrapin has not lost all her at- 
tractions, especially since she lies at a point 



THE EMERALD HUNTERS 275 

from which this sacred island, the " pearl of 
Egypt/' can be seen to advantage in the 
twilight, and in the moonlight, too. For the 
little new Eamadan moon is now of some 
importance, and sheds its lustre into every 
nook of the long porticoes, galleries, courts, 
and chambers of the temples, lights even the 
wall decorations of the goddess Isis. To lie 
moored near these points is better than camp- 
ing on the island itself, for one need but 
lift the eyes to find delight. Of the Kiosque 
it is better to quote from our old friend 
Baedeker, who has a way of putting many 
things in his nutshell paragraphs : " The 
Kiosque of Philae has been depicted a thou- 
sand times, and the slender, graceful form 
that greets the eyes of the travelers as they 
approach the island well deserves the honor. 
The architect who designed it was no 
stranger to Greek art, and this pavilion, 
standing among the purely Egyptian temples 
around it, produces the effect of a line of 
Homer among hieroglyphic inscriptions, or 
of a naturally growing tree among artificially 
trimmed hedges." 

As interesting are some stray lines in 
Strabo, to the effect that he drove almost to 



276 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Philse in a wagon, then crossed the water in a 
" pacton " or small boat made of rods woven 
together. He adds that standing in the bot- 
tom of the boat in the water, or sitting on 
little planks, they crossed easily, " but with 
some alarm." In these days, the crossing is 
in such gayly colored boats that they look 
for all the world like Swiss or German toys. 
They are of red, with seats of blue, the oars 
and masts green, the seat covers of variegated 
cotton, and the awnings striped. They seem 
to be made pour rire, and are heavy with 
rowlocks of wood, against which the oars 
clank with noise that can be heard a mile 
away. 

While the Howadji studies up the various 
sketchable corners, Sitt wanders over the 
island, finding many a pretty bit of wall 
decoration, and pieces of stone with pretty 
designs appearing at intervals upon them, or 
quarried for altar and libation purposes, no 
mention of which is in any of the guides, 
which are naturally devoted to the points of 
importance, pylons, the colonnade and cham- 
bers dedicated to various Egyptian gods. 
Perched high upon a ladder a workman is 
busy cutting some English letters into the 



THE EMERALD HUNTERS 277 

wall of the great temple. An English officer 
superintends the work, for the workman is 
an Italian, and cannot alone recut the almost 
erased memorial to some of the English who 
fell in early battles with the Dervishes. " Old 
Mortality " cuts slowly on with fine tools and 
instruments, while the English intelligence 
at the foot of the ladder oversees. 

This inscription is on a side wall. No- 
thing is injured by using it as a monumen- 
tal stone to modern armies, while we shall 
never know what important inscription was 
cut from the interior of the second pylo 
to make place for the lines cut deeply ju^a 
hundred years ago by Napoleon's soldiers, 
or by one named Casteix, whose wish it was 
evidently to have his name in distinguished 
company. It comes down to us enrolled as 
a member of the Egyptian Institute, founded 
by Napoleon in imitation presumably of the 
French Institute. 

" L'an VI de la rdpublique, le 13 messidor 

Une arm^e fran§aise 

Command^e par Bonaparte 

Est descendue a Alexandrie. 

L'armde ay ant mis vingt jours aprfes 

Les Mameloucks en f uite au Pyramides, 

Desaix, commandant le premiere division, 




278 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

Les a poursuivis au del^ des cataracts, 

Ou il est arriv^ 

le 13 ventose de Tan VII. 

Les g^ndraux de brigade 

Davouste, Friant et Belliard ; 

Donzelot, chef de I'^tat-major; 

Latournerie, commandant Tartillerie ; 

Eppler, chef de la 21^ brigade. 

Le 13 ventose, an VII de la r^publique ; 

3 mars, an de J. C. 1799. 

G-rav^ par Casteix, eculpteur." 

In De Villier's Egyptian souvenirs we find 
that the island of Philse "sustained a five 
days' siege before the French captured it, 
though it had been successfully held against 
the Mamelukes." Assouan and its neio^h- 
borhood was the scene of battle between the 
French and the Mamelukes, in which the 
former captured some fifty boats belonging 
to the latter, because of contrary winds 
which prevented their sailing beyond the line 
of danger. How full of sympathy are we, 
who have so lately battled with these con- 
trary winds, for the poor Mamelukes! the 
weakest foe could often have captured our 
poor little Terrapin as she lay hopelessly wait- 
ing for a contrary wind to blow itself out. 
The Mamelukes fled from Philse and its 



THE EMERALD HUNTERS 279 

neighborhood to ensconce themselves in our 
much admired Kasrn Ibrim further up the 
river, and left the French to wander at will 
over Philse and its neighborhood. 

Sketching with the Howadji in the far- 
famed temple is a "big game man/' whose 
last exploit has been not in hunting lions and 
tigers, but still bigger game — an emerald 
mine; instead of wearing tigers' claws on 
his watchguard, he wears an emerald. 

Nine days towards the Red Sea from 
Assouan by camel are the ancient mines, the 
only ones known until the conquest of Peru 
by Pizarro. A concession from the Egyp- 
tian government having been obtained, Cor- 
nish miners are now on their way to work 
this old-time El Dorado. All of this has 
been going on while we were drifting along 
by the golden sand of Nubia. We read from 
one of the daily newspapers this interesting 
story : — 

"As far as our evidence goes, the emerald mines 
have none of the antiquity of their neighbors. It is 
strange that although Agatharcides and Diodorus have 
given careful descriptions of the gold mines, not a word 
escapes them about the emeralds which are found in 
the same locality. We learn from other sources that 
they were the only emerald mines known to the ancient 



280 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

world. Cleopatra had her portrait engraved on emer- 
alds from these mines. No traces of early Egyptian 
workings have been discovered, and there is no direct 
evidence in the shape of inscriptions that they were 
worked in the Ptolemaic era, although rock-hewn 
temples of that period have been found in their im- 
mediate vicinity. The first account of these mines 
dates from a period some generations subsequent to 
Omary and Toulon's age. It was discovered by the 
great Orientalist Quatrem^re, and consists of the notes 
of an Arab, of the name of Abderrahman, who was 
employed as an accountant at the mines. The work 
was at that time conducted on a large scale, and the 
system and discipline seem to have been excellent. 
But in spite of the latter, a good many emeralds were 
stolen by the men, and the lamentations of the consci- 
entious accountant on this head are quite pathetic. 
The miners were no longer slaves, but received regular 
wages from the Sultan. The Bejas, the forefathers of 
the modern Becharin Arabs, guarded the neighborhood 
from the attacks of freebooters, for not only the mines 
but the large reservoirs of rainwater had to be carefully 
protected. Abderrahman mentioned the various kinds 
of emeralds found there. One quality was called ' the 
Western ' because it was specially prized by the French, 
Lombard, and Spanish kings. 

" These mines are often spoken of by subsequent 
Arabic writers, and they afterwards appear to have been 
farmed out on lease. In 1304 one of these lessees of the 
mines found an emerald a pound and a half in weight, 
which he sold to a European prince for £4,800. The 
mines were worked until 1358, when a decree of the 
Sultan Hassan forbade any further operations. They 



THE EMERALD HUNTERS 281 

were utterly lost sight of for three hundred years, until 
they were visited in the seventeenth century by Ibrahim 
Pasha, who is said to have carried off a vast quantity 
of emeralds as a trophy of his journey. His success, 
however, does not seem to have inspired any emulation, 
for all knowledge of the very situation of the mines 
faded away until they were rediscovered by Cailliand 
in 1819. As soon as their situation was ascertained, 
the problem as to whether they would repay the cost of 
working had to be solved, but it is still awaiting solution, 
Mohammed Ali was always on the lookout for mines 
of every sort and kind, and on the news of Cailliand's 
success, he at once fitted out an expedition. It was just 
as fruitless as his similar ventures in Asia Minor and 
the Soudan. Numerous Greek and Albanian workmen 
were sent to Gebel Zabbara, a mountain range near the 
Red Sea littoral, which is honeycombed for more than 
forty miles with the workings of the ancient miners. 

" Unfortunately for the success of the expedition, all 
Mohammed All's enthusiasm was shortly afterwards 
concentrated on the Soudan, whither Cailliand was 
commanded to proceed without delay. All attempts 
at reopening the mines were given up, and the hap- 
less laborers were left to straggle across the desert to 
the Nile as best they could. The mines were again 
deserted, but not forgotten. Many have been struck 
by the tales of their former richness, and, as Egypt 
became more and more accessible to Europeans, explor- 
ers were not wanting. Individual effort was useless, 
for it was politically and financially impossible for any 
expedition to be successful unless dispatched under Khe- 
dival auspices. Thus it was that Figari, who tried 
to follow up Cailliand's rediscovery of the mines, was 



282 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

as unsuccessful as Bruce had been in his efforts to find 
them in 1778. Accordingly, all the stories about this 
mysterious ' El Dorado ' remained unverified until nine 
years ago, when the Khedive Tewfik sent an expedi- 
tion under the direction o£ Mr. Floyer, who is now 
Inspector-General of the Egyptian Telegraphs. An 
account of this expedition was published at Cairo in 
1893 under the title of ' Etude sur le Nord-Etbai,' and 
an epitome appeared in the journal of the Royal Asi- 
atic Society. Mr. Floyer concludes that there are 
indisputable proofs of the existence of emeralds, and 
that it would not be difficult to work the mines again. 
Some specimens from the mines were sent to a special- 
ist, and he was so favorably impressed that he decided 
to visit the mines in person. As, however, his attention 
was immediately afterwards engrossed by some Aus- 
tralian mines, the visit was postponed. 

"Such are the outlines of the history of the most 
celebrated mines in the ancient world. As the traveler 
on the highway from Europe to the East gazes list- 
lessly in the sultry heat towards the distant coast-line 
of the Red Sea, he little thinks that the far-off moun- 
tains once had wealth compared with which the golden 
harvests of California and Klondike seem insignificant. 
From the port of the Golden Berenice argosies sailed 
laden with their precious freight, — gems destined to 
find a place in the Imperial diadem, and gold which 
enabled the Ptolemies to make Alexandria the second 
city in the ancient world, second only to Rome itself. 
Those grim mountains and arid valleys are filled with 
ruins which show that the ages of the mines' fruitful- 
ness must be reckoned not by centuries but by thousands 
of years. Those lonely hills have been perforated by 



THE EMERALD HUNTERS 283 

the labors of generations of wretched toilers, whose 
huts still remain clustered in the ravines. Everywhere 
there are memorials of ages of industry." 

When these mines are successfully opened, 
the natives may, in view of the near failure 
of the scarab crop, importune the traveler to 
buy emeralds. 

Philse is deserted at night, for none of the 
many roofless hovels which still cover the 
island are inhabited. The keeper and the 
backsheesh hunters prefer the more antique 
island of Biggeh, and retire thither with the 
close of the day. The doves in the trees coo 
to each other between sundown and moonrise, 
and the solemnity of the place returns, — 
solemnity which is lost by day by reason of 
the numberless excursionists who come by 
donkey and by train from Assouan. Most 
of them stop long enough to read the Latin 
inscription over one of the doors of the Peri- 
style hall, and to group themselves for pho- 
tographs. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

THE END OF THE JOUENEY 

Days have passed in the study of Philse 
and in the seclusion of our little house along- 
side the sacred island, and now we must be 
off north. The Howadji sends for the owner 
of the Terrapin, and after compliments are 
exchanged, receives his receipt in full, mean- 
while informing the wily young Egyptian 
that, had he time, he would linger to have 
him prosecuted for cheating us out of two 
men, imposing upon us a broken-legged one, 
and for failing in other minor points of his 
contract ; but since he has n't time, he would 
let him off, — as the fellow knew he would. 

After weeks of loitering along the way, it 
is hard to realize that a railroad time-table is 
a serious thing, which must be Hved up to. 
In order to get bag and baggage aboard, we 
must be up betimes in the morning. And 
so many things must be arranged at the last 
moment. Backsheesh must not be paid to 



THE END OF THE JOURNEY 285 

our helpers until we are actually aboard the 
train^ otherwise they will slip away to their 
various villages in the midst of the work, and 
poor Alii will be more than ever overbur- 
dened. 

The train for Assouan leaves at 6 a. m., 
but why should that hour appall us who have 
been rising often before sunrise ? But the 
fatigue of packing, and talking makes us 
sleep soundly until we are awakened by an 
unusual noise above stairs. The Howadji 
opens one heavy eye, and shouts out to know 
what the racket is all about, and AUi, who 
has been upsetting all the furniture in his 
effort to rouse us, answers, — 

" Most six 'cl'k, think it late, never you 
mind." 

But this time we do mind. Fifteen min- 
utes is not long enough for a bath, for break- 
fast, and for the good-bys to our staunch 
little boat. We have no time even for a 
glance at the river, none to sentimentahze 
over our little Terrapin, none for a parting 
look at Philse, and we shall remember it 
longest as we saw it in the glamour of Ben- 
gal lights thrown upon it by some excur- 
sionists the night before. 



286 OUR HOUSEBOAT ON THE NILE 

But we catch the train, and as we are off, 
pay backsheesh into all those outstretched 
hands, while each mouth broadens into a 
smile and rows of shining teeth show from 
ear to ear. Our only pang is their evident 
pleasure at exchanging our company for 
those bright, shining pieces of silver. We 
are still recalling the things we left behind 
in that hurried flight, and imagining the 
quarrels the men had over the division of 
them. 

As the train moves slowly away, we hang 
out of the windows in the hope of catching 
one more peep at our old friends ; but the 
Terrapin is masked by a row of Greek 
traders' booths, and the pylons of beautiful 
Philse are obscured by the smoke of a mod- 
ern locomotive. 



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